Airplane at Airport - Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Actor and aviation enthusiast Harrison Ford — who’s had his ups and downs while at the controls of various aircraft over the years — will be honored by the Aero Club of Southern California with the 43rd annual Howard Hughes Memorial Award, it was announced Wednesday.

The award, which recognizes “exceptional leaders who advanced the fields of aviation or aerospace technology,” will be presented June 10 at the California Science Center Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Pavilion.

The Aero Club is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1908 that supports aviation education, among other endeavors.

“It is an honor to celebrate Harrison Ford, the illustrious actor, pilot, and passionate aviation advocate for his volunteer work with Young Eagles, humanitarian and aircraft rescue efforts,” George Butts, the Aero Club’s president, said in a statement.

“The Aero Club’s mission is to honor the giants of aviation and aerospace while providing generous scholarships to students pursuing an education in either field. We look forward to bringing industry professionals and the public together to recognize Mr. Ford this June and to celebrate the visibility he brings to the aviation and aerospace industries through his aviation accomplishments and iconic film career.”

The 80-year-old Ford, best known for his roles in the “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” franchises, first took up flying in the 1960s. But in those days before he hit it big in the movies, the struggling actor had to give up taking lessons — $15 a hour was more than he could afford. He resumed lessons in the 1990s, eventually earning licenses in fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.

He has served as chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles program and, in 2010, commanded an Operation Smile medical volunteer and supply airlift for Haitian earthquake victims.

He’s also a volunteer search-and-rescue helicopter pilot in Teton County, Wyoming, and an honorary board member of the humanitarian aviation organization, Wings of Hope.

But over the years, he’s also made news for some in-flight mishaps.

In 2020, he was investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration after his airplane crossed another plane on a runway at Hawthorne Municipal Airport, despite the tower operator telling him to hold short due to traffic.

According to the FAA at the time, Ford landed an Aviat Husky on the runway, then crossed to the western end of the runway while another pilot, who was conducting touch-and-go landings, was taking off about 3,600 feet east.

There was no danger of a crash, according to an FAA official, but the tower operator was alarmed. Ford said he was “terribly sorry,” according to audio of his exchange with the tower.

Ford was previously investigated by the FAA after he landed his private plane too close to a passenger jet at John Wayne Airport on Feb. 13, 2017. He did not face any administrative penalties or disciplinary actions as a result of the investigation.

In 2015, Ford was injured when a vintage plane he was flying crashed on a Santa Monica golf course.

To purchase tickets to the June 10 Aero Club ceremony, go to aeroclubsocal.org/events/.

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