Harrison Ford: ‘I’m the schmuck that landed on the taxiway’

Harrison Ford was nothing if not contrite when he mistakenly flew over the top of an airliner waiting to take off at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., and landed on a taxiway instead.

The Federal Aviation Administration has released air traffic control and telephone tapes of the February incident under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Ford was cleared to land on left parallel runway by controllers, but sidestepped to a taxiway instead. In this audio, controllers tell him he landed on a taxiway (known as “Charlie”) instead of the runway.

  1. Listen Harrison Ford told he landed on a taxiway

    February 13, 2017

Then Ford got the worst radio call any pilot can get from air traffic control: A request to call the tower on the telephone.

  1. Listen Harrison Ford’s in trouble

    February 13, 2017

The pilot of the airliner waiting to depart called the tower, too. He wasn’t happy.

  1. Listen Airline pilot describes Ford’s close call with his jet

By the time Ford called, there was little confusion about who was at fault.

“I’m the schmuck that landed on the taxiway,” he said.

  1. Listen Harrison Ford explains how he landed on the taxiway

Ford said he was distracted by a warning he received from the tower about wake turbulence from a landing jetliner.

The FAA investigation into the incident is continuing and no discipline against Ford has yet been issued.

  • Will

    I’m guessing that little aircraft didn’t have an ILS installed, didn’t he use the PAPI? Even still how do you miss the runway numbers, if I didn’t see that happen I probably wouldn’t believe it…wow.

    • Flying an airplane is easy. Situational awareness is hard, particularly in high traffic areas. Sometimes you focus on your landing spot (PAPI? Pfft… that’s for student pilots. :*) and it only tells you glide slope which most pilots don’t need in the middle of the day in perfect conditions.). And sometimes you just mess up.

      • Will

        I still think he probably should have done a go-around when he nearly clipped the large airliner rudder. You gotta know there’s something wrong when you’re within 30 ft of a rudder…there is no instrument approach, it’s a small runway (20L @ KSNA) so this is a little more understandable. Yeah, I don’t know how you guys can just gauge that stuff by feel; I was hand flying an EMB175 on a full flight sim following an ILS and I felt like I was trimming the stabilizer the whole time. I landed on the runway but it wasn’t pretty.

        • //Yeah, I don’t know how you guys can just gauge that stuff by feel; I was hand flying an EMB175 on a full flight sim following an ILS and I felt like I was trimming the stabilizer the whole time. I landed on the runway but it wasn’t pretty.

          Just keep the touchdown point at the same spot in your windshield all the way down, pitch for airspeed and throttle to adjust altitude.

          I strongly recommend this book for perfect landings:

          https://www.amazon.com/Stick-Rudder-Explanation-Art-Flying/dp/0070362408

          • Will

            I’ll have to take a look at the book, I do wonder if that method changes based on flap/gear extension… pitch angle on approach seems to change drastically on each aircraft too. I’m working on the EMB175 today but next week it might be the CRJ200 or a 777 a few days after that. Autopilot makes things so easy, but I should learn to hand fly, thanks for the pointers and book recommendation.

          • No, nothing changes regardless of configuration. Pitch always controls airspeed. Power always controls altitude. Most people think it’s the other way around; that’s the big mistake they make. A plane trimmed out at, say, an 80-knot approach speed will fly at 80 knots regardless of what you do with the throttle.

            Also, remember, if you stall and you’re hurtling toward the ground, don’t pull up. Point your nose to the ground. [add:Old saying: “If you want to go down, pull up. If you want to go down faster, pull up more.]

            Turn off the autopilot; that ain’t flying. That’s being a sysAdmin, or — as I tell my airline pilot pals — an airline pilot.

          • joetron2030

            I love this conversation.

        • Paul

          Him questioning tower controllers if the airliner should have been under him shows a strong sense of macho-ism – he didn’t think he was in error.

          • That, too, is what I thought the most troubling part of this scenario right from the start in February. If you see an airliner under your on short final, the first thing you’d do is look to see if you’re where you’re supposed to be.

  • Jerry

    He needed his copilot, but I don’t think you can fit a Wookie in an Aviat Husky.

  • Angry Jonny

    Was he trying to do the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs?

  • Zachary

    we had the discussion last week about age, so I’m hesitant to bring it up again – but is there an age limit on pilot’s licences? I would guess there is one for commercial, but small/private flying? I know there are people who make that call for their own loved ones, but is there a FAA rule? I love Ford, but I wonder if the man should still be allowed to fly?

    • There’s no age limit on general aviation. You are required to take a BFR — biennial flight review — to show your flying chops.

      The airport area can be a difficult one when viewed from the air, especially with multiple runways. Throw in traffic and, in this case, warnings about wake turbulence, and the chance of mistakes increase significantly. And that’s above and beyond the challenge of landing an airplane with a crosswind, etc

      At Flying Cloud, I notice they’ve painted a giant “TAXI” on the parallel taxiway, because I assume people were mistaking it for the runway.

      Sometimes, people just make mistakes.

      • Paul

        In addition, pass your medical.

        Add this to the golf course he crash landed into. He’ll get it right one of these times.

        • The golf course wasn’t a failure. The Ryan is an incredibly difficult plane to pilot. The face he lost power at low altitude and quickly and efficiently responded to the emergency and then executed a force landing isn’t a sign of a bad of a bad pilot. It’s a sign of a good one.

          • Paul

            Yaya…just jabbin.