Star Wars star Harrison Ford was seriously injured on 5 March when the actor crashed his vintage plane on a Los Angeles golf course shortly after taking off from a local airport.

The single-engine plane clipped a tree as it went down shortly after taking off from Santa Monica Airport, about a mile away, and the pilot survived in "fair to moderate" condition, Assistant Los Angeles Fire Chief Patrick Butler said.

Butler declined to confirm that Ford was on board the aircraft, but a source close to the investigation said it was the 72-year-old actor.

A Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman said the cause of the 2.25pm crash appeared to be mechanical failure.

Butler said the pilot was conscious and breathing following the accident and was initially tended to by bystanders before paramedics responded and transported him to a local hospital.

"At approximately 2:20 PM, the Los Angeles Fire Department received a 911 call of a plane that had impacted at Penmar Golf Course, here in the area of Venice. Los Angeles Fire Department, firefighters, paramedics from the Venice local neighbourhood stations, as well as Mar Vista responded to the incident.

"They found a single engine plane aircraft, that had had a medium to high impact in the ground, with one male victim, approximately 70 years old, who at the time was conscious, and breathing. The male victim was initially rescued by some bystanders that were here on the golf course.

"Firefighters initiated quick EMS skills, as you can see, there are still quite a bit of EMS equipment on the field behind us. The paramedics initiated spinal mobilization, started an IV, and began all the necessary medical protocols that we do.

"At the same time, the fire engine that you see behind us, set up a protection line to see that there was no fire. This airplane crash did not present a fire to us initially, but we're on scene and we're sure that no other hazards have happened. The 70 year old male was transported to a local hospital, in fair to moderate condition," said Butler.

The actor, best known as archaeological adventurer Indiana Jones in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and its sequels and as the space hero Han Solo in the "Star Wars" series, is a longtime aviation enthusiast.

In 1999, Ford and a flight instructor went down in a helicopter crash north of Los Angeles, and the helicopter also was registered to MG Aviation, according to a Los Angeles Times report at the time.

Ford suffered a broken leg last year while filming on the set of Disney's Star Wars: Episode VII set in England, in which he is reprising his role as Han Solo. Production on the movie was halted for two weeks as he recovered.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet that it would investigate the accident.