UK

British Airways blaze pilot: 'I'm finished flying'

Chris Henkey and partner Lenka Nevolna Image copyright PA
Image caption Chris Henkey, who has been named in reports as the flight's captain, with partner Lenka Nevolna

The pilot of a British Airways plane which caught fire at a Las Vegas airport, forcing the evacuation of 170 people on board on emergency slides, has told NBC he is "finished flying".

Chris Henkey, from Reading, said he was "unlikely" to make a trip to Barbados, after which he was due to retire.

His fiancee said she was "very shocked", but praised him as a "hero".

Officials in the United States said the left engine of the Boeing 777-200 caught fire before take-off.

At least 14 people were taken to hospital with minor injuries after the incident on a runway at McCarran International Airport.

Describing the incident, Mr Henkey told NBC: "There was a loud bang and the aircraft sort of veered to the left. Because we had a third pilot he actually opened the door and went down into the cabin, saw how serious it was."

He told the network he had been due to fly to Barbados on Saturday and return the following Tuesday "and that would be it."

But he reportedly added: "It's safe to say I'm finished flying."

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Media captionIn footage filmed inside the aircraft, the flight crew can be heard telling passengers to remain in their seats
Image copyright Jordan Masters
Image caption The flight was destined for London's Gatwick airport
Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Henkey, left, was praised as a hero

His fiancee, 40-year-old Lenka Nevolna, confirmed he was due to retire.

"He's a hero," she said. "He's a great man with a warm heart, and generosity, and I'm very proud of him."

'Very experienced'

In a recording, which appeared to be a conversation between Mr Henkey and air traffic control, he was heard saying calmly: "Mayday, mayday, Speedbird 2276 request fire services."

A woman in the control tower immediately replied: "Speedbird 2276 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."

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Media captionJack Traisneau and Tom Hamer described how some passengers left the BA jet with their hand luggage
Image copyright Eric Hays via AP
Image caption BA have not confirmed the identity of the captain

According to reports, Mr Henkey was applauded by passengers in the terminal building.

"I know the papers are saying now 'he's a hero'," the pilot told NBC. "[But] we have to remember there are two other pilots and cabin crew who all behaved very, very well."

BA would not confirm the identity of the captain but said he was "very experienced and has flown with British Airways for 42 years".

In a statement, the airline said the aircraft "experienced a technical issue as it was preparing for take-off".

Flight 2276 was bound for London's Gatwick airport.

There were 157 passengers and 13 crew members on board.

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