In 42 years of flying, pilot Chris Henkey never experienced an emergency like the sudden blaze that ripped through his Boeing 777 just before takeoff in Las Vegas this week.
And now, Henkey swears he’ll never fly again, the pilot told NBC News.
British Airways Flight 2276 from Las Vegas to London was the second to last in Chris’s long career. The last flight was going to be to Barbados for a vacation with his daughter. Those plans have been canceled.
“It’s safe to say I’m finished flying.”
Henkey, 63, is now a celebrity in England and being called a hero for his quick-thinking and “textbook response” to the fire, and he has been credited with saving his passengers’ lives. The incident is under investigation, and for that reason, the pilot isn’t saying much about what happened.
Chris is now staying in a hotel, aware of the nationwide attention is heroic act has earned him. However, he downplayed his role and didn’t speak much about the acclaim.
— Wooden Spoon (@charityspoon) September 9, 2015
— The Wonder Map (@WonderRoute) September 10, 2015
To the Flight Crew of BA Flight 2276 & LAS Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting (ARFF) Team: Job well done. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/mHIlhf2rPy
— Craig Spamer (@SpamerCraig) September 10, 2015
According to the Guardian, a fire broke out in the plane’s engine just before takeoff at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport around 4 p.m., forcing him to slam on the brakes and steer the Boeing to a safe place. He issued a mayday and requested firefighters. Henkey then evacuated all passengers and crew — 170 people in total.
About 50 firefighters extinguished the blaze, and when the frightening incident was all over, passengers applauded Chris, said a Guardian reporter on the flight. But the pilot said he can’t take all the credit for saving the passengers.
“It’s not just me,” Henkey insisted. “It’s the whole crew, really.”
The remains of the plane are still scattered across the runway as investigators ponder why the Boeing’s suppression system didn’t kick in. It’s designed to prevent such engine fires.
Of those on board, only 27 people suffered any injuries, and those were minor, most sustained during the evacuation as the airplane was engulfed in flames. Even the pilot was hurt — he fell off the slide on his way out.
And Chris is likely grateful that the incident, which if not for his actions could’ve been an aviation disaster, will remain the only time he brushed death during his career. His fiancée, Lenka Nevolna, said the fire was frightening.
“He’s a hero. I’m glad that no one’s hurt and everything is going to be fine.”
[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]