SMO — Harrison Ford’s World War II-era plane lost engine power before crashing into the Penmar Golf Course next to the Santa Monica Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a preliminary report released Monday night.
Ford’s crash made national headlines after it was reported that the actor was transported to the hospital in critical condition last Thursday.
Ford is now said to be in fair to moderate condition.
About a minute after taking off from runway 21 at the airport, at 2:22 p.m., Ford’s Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR experienced engine failure and he requested permission to return to the airport, the NTSB report said. The SMO traffic control tower controller granted permission and Ford started a left turn back toward the runway.
His plane then struck the top of a tall tree before hitting the ground about 800 feet from the approach end of runway 3. NTSB refers to the incident as a forced landing on the golf course and listed Ford, which it only identifies as “the pilot,” as seriously injured.
The plane’s wings and fuselage were damaged, according to the report, and was later taken to a secure location for further examination by the NTSB.
“Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight,” the report said.
NTSB’s final report could take months or even years to complete. The last SMO-related crash occurred nearly a year and a half ago, on Sept. 29 of 2013, resulting in the death of all four of the plane’s occupants, and a final report has not been released. The preliminary report, in that case, does not identify the cause of the crash.
The airport has long been controversial in the city by the sea, with neighbors complaining about noise and pollution caused by the aircraft taking off and landing at the 227-acre public property. Some fear for their safety, as homes are located about 300 feet from the runway.
Advocates of the airport say it would be indispensable in the case of a wide-spread emergency and claim it stimulates the local economy — though City Hall’s financial consultant compared its economic impact to that of a mid-sized strip mall.
Ford has been very involved in the fight over the airport. He gave $25,000 to a pro-SMO ballot measure last year and added his name to a complaint filed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding the airport.
A key agreement between the FAA and City Hall expires on July 1, giving the latter more control of the land. City officials have discussed shortening the runway —potentially making it less attractive to pilots — upping the environmental requirements placed on pilots — thereby eliminating older, fuel inefficient planes — and raising the rent for airport tenants to market rate.
City Council is expected to consider the changes in the coming months.