A new report from the National Transportation Safety Board says the plane that Harrison Ford crash-landed in March lost power because a worn-out carburetor finally broke, stalling the engine and sending him on a dive into a golf course shortly after takeoff.
The 72-year-old actor, who has logged 5,200 hours in the air as a pilot, was seriously injured in the crash and spent months out of sight recovering.
The NTSB said a metering jet on the plane’s carburetor, which was installed when the World War II-era craft was restored in 1998, had become loose and gradually rotated over time until it malfunctioned. “The unseated jet would have allowed an increased fuel flow through the main metering orifice, producing an extremely rich fuel-to-air ratio, which would have resulted in the loss of engine power,” the report stated.
There was no requirement to check this piece of equipment, the NTSB added, but if someone had, they would have caught the flaw before the catastrophic failure. Ford had flown the plane before, racking up a total of 75 hours, according to a previous NTSB report on the crash.
As a result, the report suggested pilots and maintenance personnel take a look at their carburetors, just to be on the safe side.
Ford realized right away that he was in trouble, the new report added. “Shortly after takeoff, the pilot advised the air traffic control tower controller that the engine had lost power, and the pilot requested an immediate return to the airport. The pilot initiated a left turn toward the airport; however, during the approach, he realized that the airplane was unable to reach the runway. Subsequently, the airplane struck the top of a tree and then impacted the ground in an open area of a golf course.”
Although he was lucky to survive, he may have walked away in even better shape if not for an improperly installed shoulder harness. “The lack of reinforcement allowed the attachment bolt, washers, and stop nut to be pulled upward and through the seatback structure during the impact sequence, which resulted in the pilot’s loss of shoulder harness restraint,” the NTSB said. “It is likely that the improperly installed shoulder harness contributed to the severity of the pilot’s injuries.”
Ford, who returns to the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon this December in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, made his first public appearance last month on stage at Comic-Con. Despite a noticeable limp, he reassured fans: “I’m fine. I walked here!”