British Airways pilot Chris Henkey, captain on the plane that caught fire at Las Vegas yesterday, says he has finished flying.
The 42-year veteran has been hailed a hero for his quick thinking and calm handling after the fire was spotted on one of the plane’s engines just after 4pm as it was due to take off from McCarran International Airport for Gatwick.
The plane’s 157 passengers, 10 crew and three pilots were all able to escape safely, with only minor injuries to some 13 people.
During a phone interview with NBC from his hotel in Las Vegas, Mr Henkey said he had been due to make one more flight before retiring – to join his daughter in Barbados, his favourite holiday destination.
But he admitted that was now looking “unlikely”, adding: “It’s safe to say I’m finished flying.”
Mr Henkey, a former publican from Reading, Berkshire, had been in the cockpit with two senior first officers: one with 18 years’ experience and the other with 10 years.
He insisted he wasn’t the only one who helped save those on the Boeing 777-200, saying: “It’s not just me. It’s the whole crew, really.”
He would not talk about what had happened, as he was due to be interviewed by British and American investigators, but he did say he had never experienced such an emergency before.
“Not at all,” he said. “It’s ironic, really. Nothing like it at all.”
The fire on flight 2276 was spotted just after 4pm and a recording of Mr Henkey’s exchange with air traffic control was released which showed how efficiently the emergency was handled.
Mr Henkey was heard saying: “Mayday, mayday, Speedbird 2276 request fire services.”
The woman in the control tower replied: “Heavy fire services on the way.”
Forty seconds later the captain added: “We are evacuating on the runway. We have a fire. I repeat, we are evacuating.”
Over the next few minutes all of those on board escaped from the plane using emergency slides.
Mr Henkey said he was not among those hurt, although he did fall off the slide.
His fiancee Lenka Nevolna, 40, described him as “a hero”. She added: “He’s a great man with a warm heart and generosity and I’m very proud of him.
When asked if Mr Henkey was always so calm under pressure, she replied: “Most of the time and he is loved by everyone and we are very proud of him.”