While filming the scene where’s boxing the big, tough Nazi mechanic (played by Pat Roach) underneath the moving Flying Wing plane, Ford mistimed a roll-out of the way of the plane’s wheel and the actor got pinned. He tells the story in an ’80s interview with Prevue Magazine, which was later republished in Harrison Ford: A Biography.
“I go down and start to roll away, and my foot slips right under the rolling ‘plane’s tire. Everybody was yelling “Stop! Stop!” while the tire crawled up my leg. Luckily the brakes worked — inches before my knee was crushed — but I was pinned to the sand. I’m not normally a worrier, I know they’re not going to kill the main character in a 20-million-dollar film. I also know Indy wouldn’t look good with a peg leg. I was a lot more careful about stunt work after that!”
This wasn’t a small fake plane made out of foam board and string, mind you. Ford did sustain an injury because of this, tearing a ligament in his left leg, but thanks to the quick action of the crew and the blisteringly hot day softening the rubber of the plane’s tire he was able to escape with minimal damage done to his body.
He wouldn’t be so lucky when it came to filming “The Force Awakens” three decades later when that same left leg would get trapped in a hydraulic door on the Millennium Falcon set, causing a bad break that took him out of commission for a couple of months.