The captain of a British Airways plane which burst into flames at Las Vegas Airport has been hailed a hero for his "textbook" response to the blaze. The British Airways jet was on the runway at McCarren Airport in Las Vegas on 8 September and preparing for take-off when it's left engine caught fire, sending thick black smoke billowing into the sky.
157 passengers along with 10 crew and three pilots were evacuated using emergency slides following the engine failure. At least 14 people were taken to hospital with minor injuries, mostly caused by them sliding down the inflatable chutes.
Audio recordings from the cockpit have revealed how pilot, Chris Henkey, calmly coordinated the emergency situation as he is heard asking air traffic control for fire crews. "We are evacuating on the runway. We have a fire, I repeat, we are evacuating." He stopped his Boeing 777 bound for London Gatwick in just nine seconds, averting disaster.
Jacob Steinberg, who was on the flight, said the captain told passengers there had been a "catastrophic" engine failure. Writing on Twitter earlier, Steinberg described the emergency as it unfolded. "Was asleep as the plane took off. Came to a crashing halt. Smell of smoke. Initially told to stay seated, then shout of evacuate. Could smell and see smoke but was on other side of plane. One person said fire melted a couple of windows. They opened the back door and slide went down and smoke started coming in plane, followed by mad dash to front. A lot of panic."
Fire-fighters stationed at the airport reached the Boeing 777-200 just two minutes after the fire was reported. Within five minutes everyone inside the plane had disembarked and was taken to safety and the fire was extinguished. Aviation expert Julian Bray told Sky News the pilot should be commended for the way the passengers were guided to safety. "It was a textbook emergency evacuation under difficult conditions because that smoke was thick, black and acrid."
Dramatic video footage has been released showing the moment the British Airways Boeing 777 plane caught fire on the runway at Las Vegas Airport.
In the amateur footage, posted on YouTube, huge orange flames can be seen coming out of the side of the aircraft along with thick plumes of black smoke.
Today Mr Henkey's family hailed him a hero for saving all the 157 passengers on board as a result of his quick response.
Speaking at the couple's home in Padworth, Berkshire his 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. I couldn't sleep all night, because I was just waiting to get a call from him. I think the most emotional part is that I am just so proud of him. "This was supposed to be one of his last flights. I just hope he gets to fly again before he retires so that he ends on a high. He was supposed to be joining me in Barbados on Saturday for the end of the holiday, but I'm not sure now what is going to happen."
She added: "He has great generosity. I am very shocked but glad no-one was hurt and that he will be fine. He acts very cool under pressure, he is very calm and a real professional. He phoned me straightaway after the fire and told me what happened and I was just relieved he was okay. I am looking forward to getting him home and getting him back.'
Mr Henkey, from Reading, Berkshire, who has clocked more than four decades of flying experience with BA was reportedly applauded by passengers when he spoke to them in the safety of the building after the incident. It was his first serious incident in more than 40 years as a pilot for British Airways. He had a close brush with death , following a car crash a number of years ago had left him disfigured.