Harrison Ford involved in close call at John Wayne Airport; FAA investigating

Actor and vintage plane buff Harrison Ford had a close call at the controls of a single-engine aircraft when he overflew a 737 passenger jet minutes from taking off and landed on a taxiway at John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident, which occurred midday Monday.

FAA officials did not disclose the name of the pilot,  but provided a brief narrative of what happened.

"Air traffic controllers cleared the pilot of a single-engine Aviat Husky to land on Runway 20L at John Wayne Airport Monday afternoon,” FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. “The pilot correctly read back the clearance. The pilot then landed on a taxiway that runs parallel to the runway, overflying a Boeing 737 that was holding short of the runway. The FAA is investigating."

Gregor added that landing on the taxiway, rather than a runway, is a violation of FAA regulations.

“Was that airliner meant to be underneath me?” the pilot questioned an air traffic controller, according to a source familiar with the ongoing investigation who was not authorized to discuss details.

Another source familiar with the incident but not authorized to speak confirmed to The Times that the pilot was Harrison Ford. The Aviat aircraft involved is registered to GBH Aviation, a company whose corporate officers include Ford, according to FAA and public records.

Ford, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment Tuesday on the incident.

John Wayne Airport spokeswoman Deanne Thompson would say only that “something did happen yesterday” but declined to elaborate, saying the FAA was investigating.

The close call was first reported by NBC News.

The incident comes nearly two years after Ford crashed a World War II-era plane at a golf course near Santa Monica Airport.

According to a National Transportation Safety Board report on the 2015 crash, Ford advised Santa Monica air traffic controllers of an engine failure soon after takeoff and requested an immediate return to the airport.

Investigators said he then initiated a left turn back toward the runway and struck the top of a tall tree before he came down in an open area of Penmar Golf Course. The NTSB said the wings and fuselage of the plane were substantially damaged.

Investigators later determined the plane likely crashed because of a carburetor problem that caused the engine to lose power.

There have been other flying incidents involving the actor who rose to fame as Han Solo, the maverick pilot of the Millennium  Falcon in the “Star Wars” films.

In 1999, Ford crashed landed a helicopter in Ventura County during a training session. A year later, his six-seat Beechcraft scraped the runway at Lincoln Municipal Airport in Nebraska.

Ford’s flying skills over the years have been used in real-life search and rescue missions, including helping to locate a missing hiker and a Boy Scout in Wyoming in 2001. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. named an award in his honor.

Harrison Ford (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

FAA Investigating After Harrison Ford Flies Over Jetliner Awaiting Takeoff

Noted aviator and actor Harrison Ford flew his private plane over a jet airliner on the ground at a Southern California airport Monday. It's not the first time the Star Wars and Indiana Jones star has had problems landing.

The 74-year-old Ford was instructed to land on a runway at Orange County's John Wayne Airport but mistakenly landed on a parallel taxiway, passing over a Boeing 737 carrying 110 passengers and six crew members.

On a recording, Ford asked air traffic controllers, "Was that airliner meant to be underneath me?" according to NBC News, which first reported the incident.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the pilot heard and read back the correct landing instructions, according to The Associated Press. Gregor did not confirm it was Ford who was piloting the plane, a single-engine Aviat Husky. The AP reports that he didn't say how close Ford's plane came to hitting the jet on the ground.

No one was injured and the jet, American Airlines Flight 1456, took off for Dallas shortly after without incident.

The FAA is now investigating, which "could result in a simple warning letter to a suspension of Ford's pilot's license," NBC reports.

Ford collects vintage planes and has been flying for decades. According to NPR's Russell Lewis, Ford is "a highly-skilled and highly-rated pilot. He's qualified to fly single and twin engine planes, sea planes, helicopters and he's also an instrument-rated pilot." In 2015, Ford said he owned "eight or nine various types of airplanes," according to NTSB documents posted on AirSafe.com.

Ford reported on a medical certificate application that he had logged at least 5,200 flight hours, according to the NTSB.

He was a 2008 honoree and received the Legends Aviation Legacy Award from Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, and subsequently had an award named after him.

Ford was seriously injured in March 2015 when he crash-landed a restored World War II-era trainer plane on a golf course near the Santa Monica Airport shortly after takeoff. A National Transportation Safety Board report found the crash was caused by a loose engine part.

In 2000, Ford's plane "departed" a runway in Lincoln, Neb., because of a gust of wind, according to AirSafe.com. He was flying a Beechcraft Bonanza which "sustained minor damage," though Ford and his passenger were not injured.

And in 1999 he crash-landed a helicopter during a training flight in Ventura County, near Los Angeles, according to the AP. "Although the helicopter rolled over on its left side, neither Ford or the instructor were injured," Teroes.com notes.


Harrison Ford will not know his flying fate for weeks and maybe a lot longer, because the FAA is severely backlogged.

TMZ has confirmed ... Ford landed on a taxiway Monday at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, thinking it was the proper runway.

Sources familiar with the situation tell us ... the situation does not pose "an immediate danger" and the FAA is understaffed and backlogged.

As we reported, Ford flew over an American Airlines Boeing 737 that was on the taxiway before touching down. He seemed confused, asking the tower, "Was that airliner meant to be underneath me?"

If Ford thought he was landing on an active runway, we're told standard procedure would be to abort because the other aircraft could well be preparing for takeoff and could slam into the smaller plane.

The weather conditions were partly cloudy at the time 74-year-old Ford landed, but he could definitely see the runway and taxiway. By the way, the taxiway is unmarked, in sharp contrast to the runway.

Ford just passed a pilot's medical exam last month.

People at various airports tell us Ford is an excellent and careful pilot.

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