Harrison Ford: High-Flying Hero

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Harrison Ford made headlines a few weeks ago after he was spotted walking on crutches in a London grocery store. Don’t worry Star Wars fans, the newest installment to the series is still on track to be released December 18th, 2015. Though his injuries resulted in a two-week production pause, the movie has now resumed principal photography.

During big productions, movie stars are often peppered with silly questions from reporters trying to scrape the rumor mill. This is unfortunate, because it often hides far more interesting stories. For instance, in this case your average reader may be completely unaware that Ford piloted his own jet to arrive in London for filming. In fact, Harrison Ford is not only a fully licensed pilot, he is an aviation fanatic.

Harrison Ford: Notable Aviator

Ford touched down in London back in May. The Daily Mail photographed the 71-year-old actor disembarking his private jet, after piloting it from the states. The article reads, “The actor was a casual flyer and he wore a grey button-down shirt, brown trousers, and a pair of sunglasses on his face.” Specifically, the sunglasses are standard issue, and worn by serious aviators. Similar pairs can be purchased from an online pilot shop.

It turns out that Ford owns eight planes, including a restored US military model De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, a Gulfstream G4, and a Cessna – 525, and an Aviat – A – 1B.

Although Ford’s love of aviation didn’t begin on a movie set, it wasn’t until he was a movie star that he could afford his pilot’s license. “I wanted to pursue my pilot’s license back when I was in college, just three lessons I think,” Ford explains. “I think it cost $11 an hour for a plane and an instructor; I just couldn’t afford it.”

By 1999, Ford could more than afford what it cost to become a plane aviator, so he acquired his license. (By then, the cost of learning to fly had increased exponentially.) But, before then, he became a helicopter pilot. On the set of Six Days, Seven Nights, Ford fell in love with the idea of piloting rotor-wing aircraft, specifically helicopters. During filming, he banked 24 hours piloting the helicopter, much to the chagrin of the film’s insurance company. The insurance company did not want to approve Ford to fly, but once he’d met the requirements, they couldn’t say no.

A Flying Do-Gooder

Harrison Ford plays an action hero in most of his films, and in this case art truly imitates life. Twice, while helicoptering, Ford rescued stranded hikers. First, he rescued Megan Freeman when she became exhausted during a five-hour 11,106-foot climb up Table Mountain. The hiker is reported to have said, “I can’t believe I barfed in Harrison Ford’s helicopter!”

Ford became a hero a second time when he rescued 13-year-old Boy Scout, Cody Clawson. “Boy, you sure must have earned a merit badge for this one,” Ford said, according to The Associated Press. “I already earned this badge last summer,” Clawson replied.

Helping kids is nothing new to the actor, as he’s used his aviator skills to fly kids all over the world in association for a future flier’s chapter of the EAA (Experimental Aviation Association). He even provided his aviator services after an earthquake devastated Haiti, helping a team of twenty volunteers get critical medical supplies and services to the area.

So while Ford started as an action movie star, he seems to be transcending into mythic lore on par with some of the great pilots of the Marvel and DC universe. We wonder how Ford’s flying skills compare to those of Tony Stark’s. No, Ford isn’t decked out in Iron Man’s computerized exoskeleton (yet), but he’s certainly at least close to becoming a Blackhawk. And regardless of what DARPA says, we think Ford could definitely take the wheel of Batman’s TDKR, which appears so spectacularly in The Dark Knight Rises.

Of course, sometimes, he just takes off to grab a burger. Ford is quoted as saying, “Learning to fly was a work of art. I’m so passionate about flying, I often fly up the coast for a cheeseburger. Flying is like good music; it elevates the spirit and it’s an exhilarating freedom.”

Does Harrison Ford have any flying advice for would-be aviators out there? He does. When asked what advice he had, Harrison replied that fliers ought to know “how to land,” before they get in the cockpit.

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