I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Indiana Jones is no cowboy

I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened.
— George Orwell, Looking back on the Spanish war

Recent heroic feat of the Hollywood actor Harrison Ford (also known as Indiana Jones) got some media attention.

Harrison Ford crash-landed his vintage plane Thursday after losing engine power, suffering serious but not life-threatening injuries after using his extensive piloting skills to “beautifully” bring down the plane on a golf course and avoid nearby homes.
— The Associated Press

Harrison Ford "saved several lives" by avoiding crashing his vintage plane into a densely populated area, an eyewitness told NBC News

Harrison Ford heroically “saved several lives” after bravely fighting with the controls of his stricken plane before crash landing, it has emerged.
— The Daily Mirror

True to the heroes he plays on the big screen, a calm and collected Harrison Ford glided his aeroplane into a crash landing on a Venice, California golf course yesterday.
— The New Zealand Herald, Harrison Ford's emergency landing reveals crack action-man flying skills

And what really happened? I extracted the following two pictures from the video posted on The Daily Mirror website. In the center of the first of them you can see the yellow airplane. In the more distant aerial view shown in the second picture you already cannot recognize the airplane, but can identify its location by comparing the picture with the first one.

Now we can pinpoint the place of Indiana Jones landing on Google Earth image.

What else do we know? The National Transportation Safety Board report states:

The SMO Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT), controller reported that following takeoff from runway 21, the pilot advised of an engine failure and requested an immediate return to the airport. The pilot initiated a left turn back towards the airport; the airplane subsequently struck the top of a tall tree prior to impacting the ground in an open area of a golf course, about 800 feet southwest of the approach end of runway 3. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings and the fuselage.

In addition many newspapers, including those already mentioned, give the altitude at which the engine failed as 3,000 feet. This is quite a lot and generally sufficient to find a suitable landing spot.

So, most likely, things happened as follows. Indiana Jones was aiming for the airport till the last moment when he hit the tree and crashed. On his way he overflew not only schools, kindergartens and hospitals, but also the golf course which had thousand-feet long strips suitable for landing. Had he initially aimed not for airport, but for the golf course he could land without any damage to his airplane. Therefore Indiana Jones either did not possess those extensive crack action-man piloting skills attributed to him by the press, or was too scared to use them. The media account of Harrison Ford accident has as much relation to reality as Hollywood films.

Mikhail Simkin
May 22, 2015


Indiana Jones in one of his heroic adventures.

During a discussion of this article at one forum one participant posted the following comment:

I'd like to see how this guy handles an engine failure after takeoff over an urban area.

Well, I never had a total engine failure. Once I had a partial failure (one of magnetos) after take off. This is, of course, a different story since the airplane was still climbing. Though very slowly.

Anyway, here is one thing I actually did. I had a lunch on the Hanging Rock at the Glacier Point, which is 3,000 feet over Yosemite Valley. Below is the video that I recorded.

I would like to see how the aforementioned commentator handles such a lunch .

Mikhail Simkin
May 24, 2015

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