Air Force Pilot Says Harrison Ford’s Dangerous Plane ‘Incident’ Could Be Due to Common ‘Distraction’

Two years ago, actor Harrison Ford crash landed his vintage World War II-era plane into a golf course not far from the Santa Monica Airport.

Ford, who has had his pilot’s license for decades, was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Thankfully, the actor made a full recovery. And witnesses to the crash told NBC News that by rerouting his emergency landing to a golf course rather than a residential area, Ford potentially saved multiple lives.

Image Credit: Getty Images/Rich Polk

However, on Monday, Ford experienced another plane disaster—only this time, it could have cost the lives of hundreds of innocent passengers.

The 74-year-old was landing at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, when he reportedly landed in the wrong place. Whether or not he comprehended air control’s instructions is still unclear.

According to NBC, Ford was supposed to land on a runway, but instead landed on the taxiway–just barely missing an American Airlines 737 plane. The aircraft was holding 110 passengers and six crew members at the time.

NBC also reported that Ford asked air traffic control:

“Was that airliner meant to be underneath me?”

At that moment air traffic control responded, informing Ford that he landed incorrectly–a violation of Federal Aviation Administration safety rules.

NBC reported that the FAA said controllers gave the correct instructions to Ford, and that he correctly recited them back. However, he still landed on the taxiway.

The mistake prompted an FAA investigation, which could end with just a warning letter or a suspension of his pilot’s license, according to NBC.

Image Credit: Getty Images/Alberto E. Rodriguez

What does this say about Ford’s piloting abilities?

To the people in “aviation circles,” Ford is rumored to be one of the best. In fact, Ford’s even been dubbed a “Living Legend of Aviation” by the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, there were 443 aviation fatalities in 2013. Of those deaths, 387 were categorized under “general aviation,” which includes private planes piloted by “amateurs” and corporate flights piloted by professionals. Twenty-seven were categorized as air taxis.

Although, those numbers have steadily decreased by more than 50 percent since 2010, per the FAA, private pilots remain an enormous safety concern to the administration.

Robert Campbell, a former fighter pilot in the United States Air Force and a 28-year commercial pilot, told Independent Journal Review that, in his opinion, pilot error is always due to a multitude of factors:

“Accidents, and incidents, in aviation–-as in many other unfortunate occurrences that happen in life–-can rarely be tied down to one identifying ‘thing.’ It’s more probable that they’re outcomes of a second, or even third distraction.

It can be a snowball.

There are always distractions involved, and if someone is by themselves that factors in, too. Someone can easily misidentify instructions, so one needs to continue to question, ‘Is this right?’ But people get to a point where they stop checking themselves.”

Image Credit: Robert Campbell

And in regards to Ford’s issue with air traffic control, Campbell told IJR that even if a pilot repeats back landing instructions, a distraction might interfere with proper execution or memory of said instructions. Or, perhaps, a pilot doesn’t feel confident enough to verify landing instructions a second or third time, as needed.

According to NPR, Ford has 5,200 hours in all types of aircrafts, but unless he takes strides to train himself against common visual-illusions, his nine lives will soon run out.

Image Credit: Getty Images/Andreas Rentz

Although Ford didn’t actually crash (this time), it’s evidently far more common of private/amateur pilots to crash–both fatally and non-fatally–than professionals to crash.

Regardless of Ford’s investigation, the FAA recognizes the need for increased regulations and safety measures for private pilots, and they will continue to implement what’s necessary until every person who steps foot in an airport is safe.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated after publication.

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