High Flying Adventurer Harrison Ford Has Survived Plane and Helicopter Crashes, Rescued a Boy Scout
You can keep your K-Pop boy bands and TikTok stars: Harrison Ford’s still the king of cool. Maybe it’s his down-to-earth roots in his midwest upbringing and humble carpentry career. Maybe it’s the charismatic way he can laugh at himself. Or maybe it’s that his real-life adventures are on-par with Han Solo and Indiana Jones. The star has a highly selective car collection, but his other passion is aviation. And this lucky pilot has walked away from both a helicopter crash and a plane crash.
Ford doesn’t just fly for fun. Once he got his helicopter and plane licenses, he began to help with search and rescue operations. Despite saving multiple folks, he downplays his heroism, saying, “I try to do my share.”
First of all: Harrison owns no Fords. Shocking, I know. For decades, the star has kept home in Los Angeles and a ranch near Yellowstone. Others might have a barn full of vintage 4x4s to keep up with the #RanchLife image. But not Harrison Ford. He’s more of a convertible guy.
In Los Angeles, Harrison Ford is often spotted cruising in his 1955 Jaguar XK140 convertible. The car has wire wheels and beautiful, swooping fenders. It’s a true throwback to a golden age of Hollywood, and the sort of luxury badge that will turn even younger stars’ heads. In Jackson Hole, Ford prefers to drive his (slightly) more subdued 1966 Austin Healey 3000. Both British convertibles are painted his signature dark green color.
By 1993, Harrison Ford had been shooting one box office blockbuster after another. So he treated himself with a new car, a Mercedes SL R129 convertible. And he liked it so much, that he still has it. More recently, he bought a Tesla to keep at each house. He also has a couple of motorcycles in the garage: a 2009 BMW R1200 GS and a 1993 Triumph Daytona 1200. But his pride and joy is his airplane collection.
Harrison Ford took his first flying lessons in the 1960s, and fell in love with aviation. But you can’t afford an entire collection of airplanes when you renovate houses for a living. He says he couldn’t even afford $15 per hour for flying lessons. Ford rocketed to fame in the late 70s and kept the momentum going in the 80s. He finally took some time to focus on his other passions in the 90s, and in 1996 he earned his pilot’s license.
Ford’s biggest splurge is a custom Cessna Citation Sovereign business jet he had built for $18.8 million. It has a 3,200 nautical mile range and 525 mph top speed. This thing is about as close to the Millennium Falcon as you can get in the 21st century. And of course, it’s painted dark green.
Ford also has a hanger full of beautiful vintage planes. Most of these are more Indiana Jones than Han Solo. This includes a 1929 Waco Taperwing biplane, a 1942 Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR, a 1955 Haviland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, and a 2009 Aviat A-1C-180 Husky.
After he learned to fly planes, Ford began taking helicopter lessons. In 1999, Ford and his instructor were flying a helicopter north of Los Angeles. He was reportedly practicing an emergency landing procedure in a dry creek bed and came down too hard, rolling the helicopter onto its side. But both Ford and his instructor were unharmed and able to walk away from the wreck.
The next year, Ford was flying his Beechcraft Bonanza through Nebraska when he suffered another accident. The Bonanza is a relatively large single-engine plane. A wind gust during takeoff blew Ford off of the runway. After one night’s recuperation, he was back on his feet. But Ford’s first crashes were far from his worst.
Ford’s ST3KR, known in the military as the PT-22, was a non-combat model used to train WWII pilots. Ford’s ST3KR has a beautiful polished fuselage and bright yellow wings. He had it fully restored, but it still proved unreliable.
Ford had just taken off from the Santa Monica Airport when his engine failed. The actor radioed the tower: “Engine failure; immediate return.” They cleared the runway, but he did not have enough altitude to make it back, and clipped a treetop. Ford regained control of the plane and aimed for the nearest open space: the Penmar Golf Course.
The 72-year-old pilot was able to crash-land on the fairway. He shattered one ankle and his pelvis, broke his back, and suffered a concussion. With fuel dripping from the plane, Ford had to make a quick decision: should he try to remove himself from the wreckage, risking further injury and possible paralysis, or wait for help?
In a stroke of luck fitting of on of Ford’s characters, spinal surgeon Sanjay Khurana was playing golf nearby. He leapt into action to examine Ford’s injuries and clear him to climb out of the wreckage. Khurana told ABC News, “My task, if you will, was to get him out of the airplane in a somewhat urgent manner because the fuel was leaking.”
Christian Fry, a spokesperson of the Santa Monica Airport Association, called it “an absolutely beautifully executed emergency landing by an unbelievably well-trained pilot.”
In emergency situations, Ford has put all his aviation training to good use. During the 2017 California wildfire season he volunteered to fly into trouble spots and rescue folks who needed a lift. In an interview, he was humble about his contribution and quick to call out smoke jumpers as the real heroes.
“I’ve been in a position to help lift people out of trouble spots during fires or other mishaps and it’s very gratifying to be able to do that. But I’m no hero. There are a lot of people who risk their lives regularly to fight forest fires in California and in Wyoming or who go into very dangerous territory doing real search and rescue work. I’m not in that league but I try to do my share.”Harrison Ford
Ford also volunteers to help with search and rescue near his Wyoming home. When a 12-year-old boy scout dissappeared in Yellowstone National Park, it was Ford who found him. After 19 hours in the woods, Cody Clawson was suffering from dehydration. Then a helicopter swooped in to rescue him. But the pilot made him worry it was a mirage.
“The pilot turned round and said, ‘Good morning’…The way he said it reminded me so much of his role of Han Solo in Star Wars. Then I was like, ‘Oh my God, Han Solo has just rescued me, how cool is that…’ I thought I was delirious at first but then realized I wasn’t dreaming.”