Harrison Ford gets FAA’s OK to keep flying with no restrictions
Actor Harrison Ford will not face any discipline by the Federal Aviation Administration for narrowing missing a jetliner and mistakenly landing on a taxiway two months ago at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Ford’s attorney announced Monday.
After conducting an investigation of the incident, Stephen Hofer, who represents Ford, said the FAA determined that no enforcement action was warranted, but some training was required, which has already been completed. He declined to elaborate.
“Mr. Ford retains his pilot’s certificate without restriction,” Hofer said. “In closing the matter, the agency acknowledged Mr.Ford’s long history of compliance with the federal aviation regulations and his cooperative attitude during the investigation.”
Hofer noted that Ford has held a pilot’s certificate for more than 20 years, has logged more than 5,000 hours in the air, and has never been the subject of an FAA administrative or enforcement action.
Ford, 74, who is known for his roles in the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” movies, could have faced possible reprimand or suspension or loss of his pilot’s license.
FAA officials said they completed their investigation of the incident, but could not discuss cases involving specific individuals.
In general, the officials said their goal is to ensure that pilots comply with federal aviation regulations. When an incident occurs, they said, they often use counseling and training to ensure future compliance.
Ford landed his single-engine Aviat Husky on Taxiway C at midday on Feb. 13 after being cleared by air traffic control to use runway 20L. Before touching down, he flew low over an American Airlines Boeing 737 with more than 100 people aboard.
Ford said he had become distracted by the 737 waiting to take off and possible wake turbulence from a nearby Airbus jetliner shortly before he landed, according to recordings of air traffic control communications.
“I’m the schmuck who landed on the taxiway,” Ford told the tower after touching down. “I was distracted by the airliner which was in movement when I turned to the runway, and also the wake turbulence from the landing Airbus.”
The FAA released the audio recordings in response to nine Freedom of Information Act requests from news media.
According to the recordings, air traffic control cautioned Ford during his approach to maintain his separation from an incoming Airbus jetliner because of possible wake turbulence. Such turbulence in the area behind an airplane is especially hazardous during takeoffs and landings.
Ford acknowledged the presence of the Airbus.
After he landed, the tower told Ford he was on Taxiway C and instructed him to continue on the taxiway and stop at Taxiway H. “Oohhh. I landed on Taxiway Charlie,” he responded. “I understand now. Sorry for that.”
Aviation safety experts have said that mistakenly landing on a taxiway is a rare occurrence. They also said there was was no excuse for what could have turned into a disaster at John Wayne Airport.
After Ford landed, Edward Patton, the captain of the American Airlines jet, contacted air traffic control by telephone and discussed the incident with Irene Willard, the tower manager.
Patton mentioned that the tail of his aircraft is 42 feet high. “You get an idea how close we were,” he said.
Willard told him there was less than 100 feet of separation between the airplanes. “It was not a good position for him (Ford) to be in,” she said.
The taxiway landing is one of several mishaps and accidents Ford has experienced as a pilot.
While training with an instructor in 1999, Ford made a hard landing in a helicopter near Santa Clarita while practicing auto-rotations, an emergency technique. The aircraft rolled over on its side after coming down in a dry riverbed. No one was hurt.
A year later, the actor was landing his single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza in Lincoln, Neb., when he ran off the runway due to a strong gust of wind. Neither Ford nor his passenger was hurt. The aircraft sustained minor damage.
In March 2015, Ford crashed on the Penmar Golf Course in Santa Monica after his World War II military trainer lost power due to a carburetor problem. The actor received serious injuries, and the two-place Ryan Recruit was heavily damaged.