Padworth pilot named as Las Vegas aircraft fire hero
Passengers evacuated after plane catches fire before take off
THE hero captain of an aircraft which burst into flames in Las Vegas is from Padworth.
The captain, named locally as Chris Henkey, was piloting the British Airways flight from McCarren airport in Las Vegas to Gatwick when the Boeing 777-200 caught fire before take off.
The fire forced the 172 passengers to be evacuated and around 14 people have been taken to hospital with minor injuries. The fire broke out at 4.14pm (PDT) (11.23pm GMT)
Witnesses have said that the pilot was applauded for averting a disaster. Aviation experts have hailed the reaction as a textbook response.
In a statement British Airways said that it would not be naming the pilots.
However, the company said that the Captain is very experienced and has flown with British Airways for 42 years. The two Senior First Officers have flown with British Airways for 18 years and ten years respectively.
Mr Henkey, aged 63, studied at the College of Air Training and used to run the Hatch Gate Inn in Burghfield.
Mr Henkey's neighbour Jackie Wood told NewburyToday: "He's a lovely guy, really friendly and we are very proud of him."
The Burghfield Community Facebook page said: "We are very relieved and immensely proud that the Captain of the BA flight in Las Vegas was one of Burghfield's own. If there was ANYONE we'd ever want in an emergency -it's him. Our hearts and prayers go out to those injured and wish everyone a speedy recovery."
The page later joked that Mr Henkey would receive 'the H.M. Hog Roast Hero Award 2015 for his outstanding bravery.
"It will come as no surprise that the first recipient (but only just mind.....) is none other than Cap'n Chris Henkey who has finally made Las Vegas (west of Burghfield) famous for something other than strippers. Chris (.....wait for it.....) will receive a FREE (you heard right) - FREE Hog Roast on Burghfield Community's TAB at the next May Fayre."
BA said in a statement:"It appears from initial reports that the aircraft experienced an engine fire as it prepared for take-off. We will be working closely with the National Transportation Safety Board during their investigation into the issue."
"We are continuing to care for the 157 customers who were on board BA2776 from Las Vegas to London Gatwick and will be organising alternative flights for them.
"All customers have been provided with hotel accommodation, and our colleagues are helping them with anything further they require. Customers who were taken to hospital have all been released following care and treatment.
"The National Transportation Safety Board in the US is conducting an investigation into the incident and we will give them our fullest support.
"The safety of our customers and crew are always our top priorities, and all of our other flights are continuing to operate as normal."
Do you know Captain Henkey? Call reporter John Herring on 01635 886633.
Picture Tweeted by @Bradley_Hampton