Indiana Jones and the Control Tower Crusade

Posted March 19, 2013 at 5:18pm

The man who played Indiana Jones on the big screen is on a new crusade, this time on Capitol Hill.

Actor Harrison Ford visited members of the House General Aviation Caucus on Tuesday as part of an effort to reverse the closure of about 200 air traffic control towers that the Federal Aviation Administration said will stem from the sequester’s budget cuts.

“The consequences of it are vast,” said the 70-year-old, who gained fame for his depiction of Han Solo in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and is an accomplished aviation enthusiast. “We need a solution.”

Ford became a champion of the general aviation industry after learning to fly two decades ago, “about when the wine ran out,” he joked. Since then, he’s regularly advocated on behalf of such groups as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which has repeatedly used him in campaigns.

The General Aviation Caucus claims about 170 members and has recently been working to fend off the tower closures that the FAA said will be needed to comply with the sequester. Republican members, including caucus co-chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo., have lambasted FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood over furloughs of air traffic controllers set to begin in April. The Obama administration has warned that the unpaid time off could lead to major airport delays.

FAA officials are slated to announce Friday exactly how their sequester-related cuts will affect employees and which control towers and other facilities are slated for closure. Ford warned such cuts wouldn’t just affect private pilots like himself.

“It’s about commercial aviation and safety, too,” he said.

Ford said he was happy to lend his hand to the caucus, and he offered to fly any member of Congress in one of his aircraft, so long as they were going where he was.

“I always like a full airplane,” he said.

Perhaps that’s because he finds private airplanes easier to handle than some of the craft he has flown in his Hollywood roles — such as the interstellar spaceship his “Star Wars” character piloted alongside loyal sidekick Chewbacca the Wookiee.

“The Millennium Falcon is a lot harder to fly,” Ford quipped.