The veteran British Airways pilot who was hailed a “hero” for saving the lives of passengers on a burning plane bound for London has said he is “unlikely” to fly again.
Captain Chris Henkey was on his penultimate flight before retiring as a pilot after 42 years with BA, and was due to make a final flight which would have taken him to Barbados to join his daughter in his favourite holiday destination.
But yesterday he told NBC News: “It’s safe to say I’m finished flying.”
Investigations are continuing into what caused the left engine of the Boeing 777-200 to burst into flames on the runway at a Las Vegas airport on Wednesday, forcing 157 passengers, ten crew and three pilots to evacuate down emergency slides.
BA would not reveal how many of the passengers were British, although the Las Vegas to Gatwick route is popular with UK leisure travellers.
Mr Henkey’s fiancee, Lenka Nevolna, 40, said: “He’s a hero. He’s a great man with a warm heart, and generosity, and I’m very proud of him.”
She said she was “very shocked” by what had happened and added: “I’m glad that no-one’s hurt and everything is going to be fine.”
Asked if he is always so cool and calm, she said: “Yes, most of the time, and he’s loved by everyone, we are very proud of him.”
His former wife Marnie, who is a former cabin crew member and with whom he has a daughter, expressed her relief that he and the rest of the crew got out safely. “He is safe and happy,” she said.
Twenty-seven people – including tghe entire crew – were taken to hospital with minor injuries. Theys were released the same day.
Four investigators from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are examining the aircraft, including engine, systems and fire specialists.
NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said: “We’re interested in the exact chain of events.”
CNN reported that a source close to the investigation noted the plane’s fire suppression equipment was deployed but failed to extinguish the blaze.
BA issued a statement which said the plane “experienced a technical issue”.
The aircraft was travelling between 40mph and 100mph ahead of the ten-hour flight to Gatwick when the captain slammed the brakes on.
An audio recording of the conversation between the cockpit and air traffic control shows how efficiently the emergency was dealt with.
Speaking calmly and clearly, a male voice from the plane said: “Mayday, mayday, Speedbird 2276 request fire services.”
The woman in the control tower immediately replied: “Heavy fire services on the way.”
Forty seconds later the pilot added: “We are evacuating on the runway. We have a fire. I repeat, we are evacuating.”