AUTHOR’S NOTE: Quotes from Harrison Ford in the blog post below were taken directly from video that I recorded at the event. That video can be found here (not the best quality): Harrison Ford ACONE Acceptance Speech
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away… called Heaven, a beautiful specimen of a man was created. God came to his mother in a dream, telling her about His upcoming Gift to Women and advised her to name the boy Harrison, as no other name would be even remotely cool enough to suit him.
He blessed this child with an ability to act and cast him in two major roles of ultimate sexiness – Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Women everywhere… and, let’s be honest, men too… swooned at these heroic action figures he flawlessly brought to life.
Harrison Ford saw great success for many years, raking in big money, pairing up with beautiful women, and continuing to be a Hollywood heavyweight. From an outside perspective, he should have been the happiest man on earth.
But, few humans – even, and often especially, those whom it seem are the most blessed – reach a place of total satisfaction in life.
There was a void.
I was lucky enough to meet Harrison Ford a few weeks ago. By meet, of course, I mean that the second he reached for my hand I went from being a 36 year old woman to a 12 year old giddy, giggly little schoolgirl speaking gibberish while he smiled on patiently and politely.
I heard him give a speech that morning and in it he confessed that one day he woke up and realized that he didn’t want to die being known only as an actor.
In his words –
“I didn’t start flying until I was 52. I was motivated by a couple things. Mostly by the thought that I was 52. And I hadn’t learned anything in a long time. I had been pretending, that was my job. I had been telling stories, which I deeply enjoy. I was having a wonderful time. But, I thought, I didn’t want to be buried under a rock that said HARRISON FORD – ACTOR.”
I, for one, would have also added, SEXIEST MAN ON EARTH.
In a voice able to melt the heart of any warm-blooded creature, he continued –
“Although it (acting) is a noble occupation, I wanted to learn something else. And I was not really convinced at first that I was capable. You know, you go without stretching your mind for a period of time and it’s a bit daunting, or at least it was for me… a failed arithmetic student, a poor student of many of the disciplines I did study. But I was encouraged by people and I loved to fly. It brought great benefit to my life – it brought discipline, structure, freedom. And I recognized that blend of freedom and responsibility, that is a big part of what aviation is all about. I’m very, very grateful for what it has brought to my life.”
There is an undeniable magic to aviation. I always referred to my flight lessons as Aviation Therapy, because every time I lifted from the surface of the earth into the sky, everything that troubled me and took up head space would clear out and be replaced by one simple focus – fly the plane. When I fly, I’m blessed with scenery even the most beautiful of paintings could never capture. And then there’s that feeling of pure freedom.
In the air, Harrison Ford isn’t Harrison Ford. He’s a man flying a plane. He’s a pilot.
The event was hosted by the Aero Club of New England. Harrison was in attendance because the Club was presenting him with an award for his efforts promoting aviation.
I want to note that I did not attend this event just because he was going to be there and because this super hot picture of him went out with the announcement –
Ok, maybe I did. I mean, look at that beautiful scowl that’s almost a smirk and the way his t-shirt buckles in all the right places? Good gawd. Excuse me for a minute…
What was I saying?
Oh, yeah… he was given an award. For aviation.
I’ll give all you media lovers who scream that he needs to stop flying because you think he’s crashed dozens of planes and can’t differentiate a runway from a taxiway a moment for that to sink in.
anyone have any chocolate chip cookies while we wait?
Alright, that’s enough time.
First, let’s address his so-called crashes.
The first “crash” was in a helicopter. Ford, in a student position at the time, was being instructed on autorotations to a power recovery by a certified flight instructor. The first attempt was a success, but on the second, the power did not come back in time to recover to a hovering position and the aircraft made a hard landing.
The incident occurred 18 years ago and the NTSB concluded that it was caused by the flight instructor’s “inadequate supervision of the flight.” In other words, not Ford’s fault.
The second “crash” was caused by an engine failure during takeoff in one of Ford’s planes, a Ryan PT-22 Recruit. I’m not sure what the public thinks he did to make that engine failure his fault, but, according to the NTSB report, it was not. His so-called crash was an “emergency landing,” and his life was saved thanks to his exceptional skills as a pilot.
Now… the taxiway thing.
Yeah, ok, on that one he goofed.
With the setting sun at the end of a runway and distracted by trying to avoid wake turbulence from a much larger aircraft (trust me, that’s not something you want to get caught in), I can in some ways see how it happened. But there really is no excuse. He made a mistake.
That said, it is important to note that, while this kind of event is uncommon, he’s far from the first pilot to accidentally land on a taxiway. Even I accidentally started lining up to one once during a night flight, and I know many pilots with similar stories. The only reason he made headlines is because he’s Harrison Freakin’ Ford.
Everyone makes mistakes. No pilot, or person, is perfect. How we behave and respond after our mistakes is what separates good people from bad ones, and in this case, good pilots from those who need to be grounded.
There are 5 Hazardous Attitudes in Aviation —
Ford did not exhibit any of these after landing.
If you listen to the recording of his call to ATC, he sounded humbled, embarrassed, shaken. The first thing out of his mouth was, “I’m the schmuck who landed on the taxiway,” not, “I’M HARRISON FORD, I DO WHAT I WANT.”
Although he’d be welcome to with me…
I mean, if I wasn’t a married woman.
For whatever reason, the public takes a sick joy in building people up and then tearing them down. Saying that Ford needs to quit flying because of this single incident is ignorant.
One argument I often hear is that he is too old to keep flying. It doesn’t work that way. His FAA Medical is just as good as mine. And just as good as my 83 year old friend, Olga, who not only still flies, but enjoys performing aerobatics in her bright yellow Decathlon named Sunshine.
It’s a real shame how the taxiway incident has clouded the general public’s perception of Ford and his many remarkable accomplishments in aviation. Thankfully, it hasn’t clouded that of the pilot community.
As I watched Ford speak that day, his humility was evident. He seemed almost embarrassed to be accepting the award, like he felt himself undeserving.
“I was very honored and very reluctant to accept this award and the obligation of following in the footsteps of General Chuck Yeager (a previous recipient).”
But the reason why Ford was so deserving of this award, isn’t because of any character he’s played on TV, or because of his name or because of his sexy sexiness, it is because when he decided to become a pilot, he wasn’t just in it for himself.
According to him –
“I thought I could possibly be useful with my notoriety in carrying some of the water that needs to be brought, so people can understand the value of general aviation and the incredible benefit aviation has brought to our modern lives. It is my ambition, even after landing on the taxiway, to continue to be useful.”
Since earning his wings, Ford has used his pilot skills for the greater good, most notably by assisting search & rescue missions in his Bell 407 helicopter. In 2000, he rescued a 20 year old hiker from a mountain in Wyoming. The following year, he flew a lost 13 year old Boy Scout to safety out of Yellowstone National Park.
From 2004 to 2009, he served as the Young Eagles Volunteer Chairman, an organization whose primary mission is to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation. Ford has personally flown more than 300 Young Eagles, giving them their first (and free) airplane ride.
Harrison Ford gave the 2 millionth Young Eagle flight to 16 year old Jodie Gawhtrop at the 2016 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh event. Photo Credit: EAA
In addition to the above, he is active on Capitol Hill, frequently advocating for General Aviation.
Maybe, having never personally flown with him (YET! …you reading this, Mr Ford?!!), I shouldn’t definitively conclude that he is a “good” pilot. But he’s certainly a good person doing great things in the aviation community. And I’m not just saying that because he’s God’s Gift to Women.
No, seriously, I’m not.
He may play a hero on the big screen, but, more important is that he has become a hero in real life. And that’s something to add to the rock over his grave.
HARRISON FORD – ACTOR, AVIATOR, HERO
It is my sincere hope that, after more than 20 years of flying and contributing to the community, his recent incident and the bad publicity surrounding it do not scare him away from another 20 years or so of doing great things for aviation.
Ford concluded his speech as humbly as he began –
“I’ve been asked to speak for 20 minutes (he was about 8 minutes in). I’ve made movies in which I didn’t speak for 20 minutes. But I’m more interested in hearing from you than I am from myself.”
He then gave the remainder of his time, generously, to his audience for questions.
Desiree Kocis is a private pilot out of Hanscom Field, MA (KBED). She is Secretary of the Eastern New England Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, volunteer Flight Coordinator for Above the Clouds, and a freelance aviation writer, with publications in AOPA Flight Training and Plane & Pilot magazines.
The Monkey (who I’m passing off at OSH if anyone is interested) grabbed a quick selfie…
Ford was kind enough to take his picture with me (horrible pic of me, but a handsome one of him… as always)
But even cooler was that he also signed my logbook…
An entry I am honored to have and will forever cherish.