Tue, Mar 10, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Hollywood A-listers embrace flying with passion

Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and John Travolta are among the screen idols with pilot’s licenses in their wallets

By Robert MacPherson  /  AFP, Washington

Harrison Ford speaks with the General Aviation Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in March, 2013. Ford is a tireless advocate for general aviation.

Photo: AFP

Harrison Ford, recovering Friday from the crash of a vintage World War II trainer, is just one of many Hollywood stars who embrace flying as passionately as they do acting.

Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and John Travolta are among the screen idols with pilot’s licenses in their wallets.

Others include Michael Dorn, Edward Norton, Kurt Russell and Hilary Swank, who began learning to fly while starring in an Amelia Earhart biopic.

“There’s a pretty good collection of folks in Hollywood... who use general aviation for transportation and recreation,” said Thomas Haines of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

Ford, 72, sustained multiple gashes to his head when his open-cockpit, two-seat Ryan PT-22 Recruit in US Army Air Corps colors crashed onto a golf course.

He was attempting to return to Santa Monica airport in greater Los Angeles after telling air traffic controllers that his engine had failed.

“Dad is ok. Battered, but ok!” his son Ben Ford said via Twitter, while Ford’s publicist said the Indiana Jones star looked likely to make a full recovery. On social media, fans fondly recalled a famous scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which the swashbuckling archeologist and his reluctant dad crawl into an open-cockpit biplane.

“I didn’t know you could fly a plane,” the tweedy Henry Jones, Sr — played by Sean Connery — shouts to his adventurous son.

“Fly, yes! Land, no!” Indiana Jones yells back, as they soar off into the wild blue yonder.

In real life, Ford is well known among American pilots as a seasoned airman, at home in a wide variety of aircraft, and as a tireless advocate for general aviation.

His personal air force is understood to include Aviat Husky and de Havilland Beaver bush planes, a Cessna Sovereign business jet, a Bell 407 helicopter, plus the Ryan and a Waco Taperwing biplane.

“I’ve been working for a living (as an actor) to support my airplane habit,” Ford — one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars — once quipped.

Haines has flown several times with Ford, an AOPA member who has testified on Capitol Hill and spoken out in support of America’s smaller airports.

“He is very skilled, very methodical in his approach to aviation,” Haines said, adding that the actor takes his high profile “very seriously” in order to promote personal flying.


Hollywood’s deep ties with flying go back to its golden era, when Cecil B DeMille and Charlie Chaplin ran their own airports and Jimmy Stewart, a World War II bomber pilot, tooled around in a humble Piper Super Cub.

Among Hollywood royalty today, Travolta owns several jets — including a Boeing 707 in vintage Qantas livery — which he keeps literally at the door of his Florida home at a private airport called Jumbolair.

“We designed the house for the jets and to have, at our access, the world at a moment’s notice,” the Pulp Fiction and Saturday Night Fever star told Australian television last year.

“I was five years old when I fell in love with aviation,” the New Jersey native added. “This is something in my blood. I can’t get rid of it.”

Jolie began flying lessons in 2004, then got herself a Cirrus SR-22, a touring aircraft — best known for its built-in airframe parachute — that is the world’s best-selling single-engine plane.

She personally flew it over Death Valley, in a crisp white suit, for a Vogue magazine feature in 2007 photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

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