FAA Allows Harrison Ford to Keep Flying without Restriction
The most publicized FAA enforcement case, without any loss of persons or property, recently closed. On February 13, 2017, a 74-year-old pilot landed his Husky Aviat on the taxiway of John Wayne Airport, flying directly over an American Airlines Boeing 737 commercial jet. The recording of the pilot’s conversation included a comment that he was distracted by two commercial aircraft.
The FAA Flight Standards District Office, working with counsel, had a wide range of options in response to this incident—certificate suspension or revocation; civil penalty; requalification; or remedial actions. They chose to require additional training.
The individual, Harrison Ford, received the lesser FAA requirement according to his lawyer, Stephen Hofer, because
“The agency acknowledged Mr. Ford’s long history of compliance with the Federal Aviation Regulations and his cooperative attitude during the investigation. Mr. Ford has held a pilot’s certificate for more than 20 years, has logged more than 5,000 hours in the air, and has never been the subject of an FAA administrative or enforcement action.“
The lawyer also opined that his client did not receive special treatment due to his celebrity status.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the SNA event was preceded by three other problems.
- In 1999 while being trained by an instructor, “Ford made a hard landing in a helicopter near Santa Clarita while practicing auto-rotations, an emergency technique. The aircraft rolled over on its left side after coming down in a dry riverbed. No one was hurt.”
- In 2000 Ford landed his single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza in Lincoln, Neb. A strong gust of wind caused the plane to depart the runway Neither Ford nor his passenger was hurt. The aircraft sustained minor damage.
- In March 2015, Ford crashed on the Penmar Golf Course in Santa Monica after his World War II military trainer lost power because of a carburetor problem. The actor sustained serious injuries, and the two-seat Ryan Recruit was heavily damaged.
None of these would have justified an FAA decision for a heavier sanction.
While Mr. Ford’s status as a well-known actor may not have influenced the FAA’s decision, perhaps his aviator credentials were found to be relevant.
In 2010 the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) presented its Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy to Mr. Ford. The trophy is considered to be the highest acclaim for civil aviation. The annual award, established in 1948, is given to someone who demonstrates “significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.” The citation for the 2010 honoree reads:
“For engaging our nation’s youth in aviation and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders, innovators and enthusiasts to secure a strong future for all of aviation.”
The recommendations for this award included the following aviation accomplishments:
- Ford has long been a vocal champion for general aviation.
- He is the spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s (AOPA’s) “GA Serves America”.
- He has addressed the General Aviation Caucus in Congress.
- He has exposed hundreds of young people to the excitement of aviation.
- He has personally flown missions in support of the Cessna Citation Special Olympics Airlift, which provides free transport for athletes to the Special Olympics USA National Games.
- He also joined with hundreds of others in general aviation in flying relief missions to help victims of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that struck the island nation of Haiti.
- He has worked to promote aviation safety and reduce runway incursions, by participating in runway safety videos for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Runway Safety Office.
As a Wright Brothers award recipient, Mr. Ford joins an impressive firmament of aviation stars. Here is a list some of the past celebrity winners:
- 2015 – Burt Rutan
- 2014 – Bob Hoover
- 2013 – Marion Blakey
- 2011 – Thomas P. Stafford
- 2010 – Harrison Ford
- 2009 – Steven Udvar-Hazy
- 2008 – Norman R. Augustine
- 2007 – Eugene Cernan
- 2006 – Norman Mineta
- 2005 – Edward C. Aldridge Jr.
- 2004 – Robert Crandall
- 2003 – John Glenn
- 2002 – Paul Poberezny
- 2001 – Neil A. Armstrong
- 2000 – Herb Kelleher
- 1996 – Frederick W. Smith
- 1995 – Russell W. Meyer, Jr.
- 1994 – Albert Lee Ueltschi
- 1993 – Gerhard Neumann
- 1992 – Jake Garn
- 1980 – Olive Ann Beech
- 1979 – A. Wilson
- 1976 – William A. Patterson
- 1975 – Clarence “Kelly” Johnson
- 1973 – Barry M. Goldwater
- 1972 – John H. Shaffer
- 1971 – Howard W. Cannon
- 1968 – Warren Magnuson
- 1966 – Igor I. Sikorsky
- 1966 – Juan T. Trippe
- 1965 – Jerome Lederer
- 1964 – Henry F. Guggenheim
- 1963 – Donald Wills Douglas, Sr.
- 1957 – Stuart Symington
- 1954 – Theodore von Kármán
- 1952 – James H. Doolittle
- 1949 – Charles A. Lindbergh
Other important aviation achievements and recognitions:
The FAA’s choice of remedial training for Mr. Ford may reflect the actor/pilot’s past contributions to Aviation.
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