Actor Harrison Ford crashed his plane at a golf course near Santa Monica Airport Thursday afternoon, according to sources at the airport.
Ford was piloting his Ryan PT-22, World War II-era single-engine plane after 2 p.m. when he hit the Penmar Golf Course, which is adjacent to the airport.
“I came out. I hear a thud,” said Penmar employee Howard Teba. “One of the golfers comes out and tells me that the plane just went down and sure enough: Beautiful yellow plane.”
Airport Administrator Stelios Makrides said the plane performed an emergency landing on the golf course and sources at the airport, who asked not to be named, said that Ford had received a post take-off call to return to the runway.
Ford was taken to the hospital and originally reported to be in critical condition by the Los Angeles Fire Department.
“There were two doctors on the scene and they were giving him first aid,” Teba said. “He had a massive gash on his forehead.”
Eli Karon, a real estate agent who works in the area, said he witnessed authorities responding to the crash.
“I raced down and saw them pull a gentleman out of the plane and try to get him stable,” he said.
The Los Angeles and Santa Monica fire departments responded to the crash.
Ford was transported to a local hospital in fair-to-moderate condition, according to Los Angeles Fire Asst. Chief Patrick Butler. He was alert, conscious and breathing.
Butler said single-engine plane crashes often cause deaths.
“We are very thankful that it’s an area … that didn’t impact residences,” he said. “These generally turn out quite traumatic.”
Ford was the only occupant and no one else was injured.
The National Transportation and Safety Board is now leading the investigation.
The actor known for piloting the Millennium Falcon in “Star Wars,” a floatplane in “Indian Jones” and a spinner in “Blade Runner” has been active in the fight to keep the airport open.
Last year, he and numerous other tenants of the airport filed a complaint challenging the often-disputed end date of an agreement that dictates who controls its 227 acres.
Ford also contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign that was ultimately rejected by voters but would have lessened City Council’s control over the land.
The airport has long been a bone of contention for area residents who complain about the noise and pollution caused by the aircraft taking off and landing. Many neighbors fear for their safety, as the short runway is located about 300 feet from homes.
In July 2010, Robert R. Davenport, 60, died after crashing a single-engine Cessna 152 near the eighth hole of Penmar Golf Course. The plane had just taken off from the airport.
In 2013, four people were killed after a jet veered off the airport runway, slamming into a hangar and catching fire. The NTSB has not concluded its investigation as to why that crash occurred.
In 1970, Santa Monica City Councilmember Ken Wamsley was killed after his plane hit a house in the area near the golf course.
“We are grateful there was no loss of life,” Mayor Kevin McKeown said of Ford’s crash. “Coincidentally, today I received a letter from an aviation consultant urging pilots to fly additional and unnecessary flights over Santa Monica neighborhoods, apparently as political pressure. This madness must stop.”
Airport Commission Chair David Goddard, a vocal opponent of the airport, said the crash could have been even more disastrous if happened in a busier place.
“Generally, the public is concerned about the planes operating over a densely populated area,” he said. “The city is well aware of the risks associated with operating an airport there.”
A key deadline looms for the future of SMO. On July 1, the expiration of a 1984 agreement between the Federal Aviation Administration and City Hall is expected to give the latter more control of the airport. Council may choose to close a portion of the runway, making it less attractive to pilots.
The Airport Commission recently asked council to raise airport leases to market rate and keep the terms month-to-month. Currently, commissioners said, some aviation tenants are paying vastly reduced rates.
Some airport opponents have referred to this as a strangulation policy, making the airport less attractive to pilots rather than shutting it down.