The vintage yellow fighter plane crashed at about 2:24 p.m. at Penmar Golf Course, not far from the Santa Monica airport, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott said on Thursday.
Ford, 72, was the only person on board the craft.
"Harrison was flying a WW2 vintage plane today which had engine trouble upon take off," a rep for Ford said in a statement. "He had no other choice but to make an emergency landing, which he did safely. He was banged up and is in the hospital receiving medical care. The injuries sustained are not life threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery."
Ford's son Ben, a chef, Tweeted on Thursday night that he was at the hospital with his father, who was "battered, but ok! He is every bit the man you would think he is. He is an incredibly strong man. Thank you all for your thoughts and good vibes for my dad."
Santa Monica City Commissioner Phil Brock told PEOPLE that the star sustained a head injury. "There were two doctors who had been at the golf course who first attended to Mr. Ford and the Santa Monica Fire Department was the first to arrive," Brock said.
An eyewitness, who identified as a plane enthusiast, was on the scene of the crash and told PEOPLE: "He had engine failure during takeoff from the Santa Monica Airport. He was on the west side of the golf course and tried to get back to the airport, so he started going east, but then he clipped a tree and fell on the east side of the golf course. During takeoff, the engine blew. You could hear it go silent, and then he banked to the left, clipped the tree and fell on the number 8 tee."
Howard Tabe, an employee at the Penmar Golf Course, told NBC News: "There was blood all over his face ... Two very fine doctors were treating him, taking good care of him. I helped put a blanket under his hip."
Assistant Chief Patrick Butler of the L.A. Fire Department confirmed in a press conference that Ford was out of the plane when emergency services arrived. "The patient was in moderate condition, alert and conscious and breathing and was transported to a local hospital," Butler said. He noted that the plane had avoided residential areas that closely surround the golf course. "I would say that it is an area that probably presented the least amount of impact to the community," Butler said.
The FAA and NTSB will be investigating the crash, Butler said.
In air traffic control audio, Ford can be heard reporting his emergency, saying "Engine failure, requesting immediate return." Air traffic controllers responded, "Clear to land." Later, a controller reports: "It looked like it was short of the runway."
Locals who noticed the plane could tell something was wrong. "It sounded like it was sputtering," says J. Ryan, who lives nearby. "The plane was unusually low to the ground, even for a plane that had just taken off."
This is not the first time Ford, an experienced pilot, has been in a plane crash. His six-passenger plane took a hard landing in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the summer of 2000, but the actor was not hurt. Ford also crash-landed a helicopter in October 1999 while he was practicing emergency landings with a flight instructor.
Reporting by MELODY CHIU, NICOLE SANDS and PATRICK GOMEZ
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