Retiring veteran pilot executed near-perfect emergency protocol on final week

September 10, 2015 6:57 pm

 The damaged British Airways Boeing 777-200 sits at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Photo / AP

It was supposed to be one of his final flights, a 10-hour trip from
Las Vegas to London before celebrating his retirement from a 42-year
career with a holiday in Barbados.
But Captain Chris Henkey was
thrust into action when a “catastrophic failure” on his British Airways
Boeing 777-200 generated a massive fire that threatened the lives of
more than 150 passengers.
Travelling at 145km/h and just moments
from takeoff, he had seconds to avert disaster, stopping the plane and
calling for help in a near-perfect execution of emergency protocol.
Within
a few minutes, Henkey and the 13-strong crew of BA Flight 2276 had
evacuated all 159 passengers on board, with 14 of those suffering minor
injuries.
Henkey, 63, said: “I am very proud of the cabin crew and relieved everyone is okay.”
The pilot’s family declared he did a “bloody good job” to save all the passengers.

He had been due to return home yesterday to the Berkshire
village of Padworth, where he lives with his fiancee, Lenka Nevlona, 40.
Nevlona
had planned to join him as he captained his last flight to Barbados
today, where they were hoping to join his 26-year-old daughter.
Nevlona,
a health service worker, said yesterday: “I feel very proud. He is a
hero. He is a great man with a warm heart and generosity. I was very
shocked. I’m glad that no one was hurt and everything is going to be
fine.”

Pilot Chris Henkey, 63, said: "I am very proud of the cabin crew and relieved everyone is okay." Photo / Supplied
Pilot Chris Henkey, 63, said: “I am very proud of the cabin crew and relieved everyone is okay.” Photo / Supplied
Charley Henkey, his daughter from a previous marriage, also
spoke of the pride she felt for her father. She told the Reading
Chronicle: “I was just heading out for dinner with my best friend when I
got a text from dad saying there had been a massive explosion on the
plane but that he was okay. 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.”
The pilot, who also used to be
the pub landlord of the Hatchgate Inn, in Reading, graduated from the
College of Air Training in 1971 and has worked for BA for over 40 years.
In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration added his name to the
Airmen Certification Database – a scheme that honours pilots who have
“met or exceeded” the FAA’s high educational, licensing and medical
standards.
Several years ago, Henkey was left badly disfigured
when his sports car overturned. He spent months recovering and was
eventually declared fit to return to the cockpit.
Julian Bray, an
aviation expert, described Henkey and his crew’s work as a “textbook
emergency evacuation” and Jim McAuslin, general secretary of the British
Airline Pilots’ Association, praised his calm reaction.
Dominic
Worthington, a Briton who was on the plane when the fire broke out,
described a “slight jolt, then a bang” before the plane came to a stop.
He told CBS : “We had a matter of seconds before it could have
escalated into something very serious.”
Although it will take
months for a definitive explanation for the fire to emerge, experts have
suggested the blaze was due to what is known as an uncontained engine
failure.
General Electric, the maker of the GE90, insisted its engine was safe.

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