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Harrison Ford lauded for skillfully managing plane crash in Venice

In the days since the crash, cell phone footage taken by golfers on the course where Ford crash landed has been posted online showing the plane clipping a tree as it plunges downward. (Thinkstock)
In the days since the crash, cell phone footage taken by golfers on the course where Ford crash landed has been posted online showing the plane clipping a tree as it plunges downward. (Thinkstock)

Actor Harrison Ford, who is continuing to recover from injuries he suffered when his World War II-era single-engine plane lost power and crashed on a Venice golf course, is being lauded for skillfully landing the aircraft and minimizing damage to the surrounding community.

“He did an excellent job,” veteran flight instructor Liz Destaffany told the Los Angeles Times. “You try to do a controlled descent, maintain airspeed and look for a safe place to land.”

Christian Fry of the Santa Monica Airport Association, told the Los Angeles Daily News Ford, who has been a licensed private pilot since 1996, did an excellent job.

“I would say that this is an absolutely beautifully executed – what we would call – a forced or emergency landing, by an unbelievably well-trained pilot.”

Meanwhile, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board removed the wreckage of Ford’s Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR from the crash site Friday with the help of city firefighters.     The agency is continuing its investigation to determine what caused the plane to go down at 2:25 p.m. Thursday on a fairway at Penmar Golf Course, 1233 Rose Ave. The Federal Aviation Administration is assisting the NTSB.

Ford, 72, was the only person aboard the restored, single-engine plane. The Ryan planes were built in the 1930s and ’40s and were used to train military pilots from the United States and other countries.

Area residents said this was the second time in recent years a plane crashed at Penmar, a nine-hole Los Angeles city golf course.

Los Angeles Fired Department Assistant Chief Patrick Butler said the actor was outside the plane when crews arrived and was taken to a hospital, suffering “moderate” trauma. He was alert and conscious while being treated at the scene, fire officials said.

“Normally, the outcomes are fatalities, so we are very thankful,” he said.

Ford’s publicist said in a statement the star of such films as the original “Stars Wars” trilogy and the Indiana Jones franchise, was banged up, but his injuries are not life-threatening and he’s expected to make a full recovery.

Ford’s son, Ben Ford, posted on his Twitter page that his father was “OK. Battered, but OK!”

“He is every bit the man you would think he is,” Ben Ford wrote. “He is an incredibly strong man. Thank you for all your thoughts and good vibes for my dad.”

Ford underwent surgery for a broken ankle and pelvis, according to family sources quoted by media outlets camped outside Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. A hospital spokeswoman declined to comment, or even confirm whether Ford was being treated there. However, several media outlets have reported seeing Ford’s wife, actress Calista Flockhart, visiting the facility.

Dr. Sanjay Khurana, a spinal surgeon who had been playing golf, told reporters he saw the plane clip a tree before coming down. He said he and others examined Ford, who had suffered soft-tissue injuries, made sure he was stable and helped him out of the plane.

NTSB Investigator Patrick Jones said the wreckage was being moved to an area hangar so it can be examined. Jones described the plane was an “award- winning” restoration.

A preliminary report will likely be released in two weeks to a month, but the full process leading to a final report probably will take about a year, Jones said.

“We go back to the basics. The initial report was a loss of engine power,” Jones said. “We are going to look at that but we are going to look at it all, at everything — weather, man, the machine.”

The airplane landed right-side up and was largely intact, but left gouges on the fairway.

Ford had just taken off, experienced engine trouble and was circling back to the airport when he crash-landed on the golf course, according to the NTSB.

The longtime aviation enthusiast, who has even piloted helicopters in search-and-rescue situations and who owns several aircraft, is active with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the Experimental Aircraft Association.

He crashed a helicopter in the Lake Piru area near Santa Clarita during a training flight in 1999, and a six-passenger plane he was piloting in 2000 was hit by wind shear and crash-landed in Lincoln, Nebraska. He and his passenger emerged from that crash unhurt.

The plane that crashed Thursday is registered to MG Aviation Inc. of Camden, Delaware, according to the FAA’s online aircraft registry.

Thursday’s crash is likely to reinvigorate the debate over the future of Santa Monica Airport. Residents and some city officials have been pushing to close the airport, citing noise and safety issues. Federal authorities have insisted, however, that the city is required to keep it open.

Ford has allied himself with the effort to preserve the airport, contributing almost $26,000 to the campaign for a pro-airport ballot measure that went down to defeat in November.

Valerie Davidson, who has lived in Santa Monica for 25 years, told the Los Angeles Times Ford “flies in and out of here all the time. He’s not a friend of the residents of this neighborhood.

“I’m pleased he’s OK, but this might be a wake-up call,” Davidson said.

Last year, Ford suffered a broken leg on the set of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” delaying filming on the much-anticipated sequel.     In the days since the crash, cell phone footage taken by golfers on the course where Ford crash landed has been posted online showing the plane clipping a tree as it plunges downward.

Jones urged others with cell phone or other video related to the crash to upload it to the agency’s website at www.NTSB.gov.

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