According to LAPD, Ford’s single-engine plane went down at about 2:25 p.m. at Penmar Golf Course. While officials are still investigating the crash, eyewitnesses at the scene told EW on Thursday that the pilot was clearly an experienced one.
Santa Monica local Yurika Harris lives a block away from the golf course and about two blocks from the end of the Santa Monica Airport’s runway. She happened to be looking out the window Thursday afternoon as Ford’s plane streaked by overhead and could immediately tell by its altitude that the pilot was in trouble. “It was flying along near the tops of the trees,” Harris said. “I thought, ‘That looks too low. That plane looks like it’s going to crash!'”
Surveying the northern end of the golf course where the wreckage was being examined by Santa Monica police, her husband, Ryan Harris, added: “It was a masterful feat of airmanship. There are about eight trees nearby, and he put it down without hitting any of them.”
Christian Fry, Vice President of the Santa Monica Airport Association, told EW the downed plane is a PT-22, a military training aircraft built in the ’30s. “The aircraft experienced a power problem during takeoff and made a forced or ’emergency’ landing. It was beautifully executed and didn’t impact the neighborhood at all.”
Fry said he did not have direct knowledge of the mechanical failure that led to the crash but speculated that the pilot—whom he could not confirm was Harrison Ford—”had trouble after takeoff and tried to head back to the runway but ran out of altitude.”
In an apparent attempt to shed doubt on the pilot’s identity, Fry added: “Most production companies don’t allow major stars to fly their own planes during filming.”
J. Ryan, a local TV producer, told People he was working in his garage when he heard the plane.
“I looked straight up and there was this yellow vintage aircraft, and it sounded like it was sputtering,” he said. “The plane just didn’t look healthy. I randomly thought to take a picture. The plane was unusually low to the ground, even for a plane that had just taken off from Santa Monica airport. The plane was headed west towards the beach when I saw it make a left bank back towards the airport. It was not a smooth turn to go back to the airport. In general it just didn’t seem like any normal sort of flight path, and living here I see planes take off and land every day. It was just odd. The plane was probably over Lincoln Boulevard when I saw it.”