The pilot who saved 169 lives when he safely evacuated a plane that burst into flames has criticised the passengers who stopped to pick up their hand luggage
British Airways senior captain Chris Henkey believes that locking the overhead luggage cabins might be a way to make passengers leave them behind in an emergency.
Mr Henkey, 63, calmly brought the situation under control when flames lapped the London-bound Boeing 777-200 during off at an airport in Las Vegas on September 9.
But he said: “Not just in our case but in any case where cabin crew are trying to get passengers off quickly, it is clear that the passengers should not be taking their luggage with them. ”
He told LBC Radio: “What is a cabin member (of any airline) to do? Are they going to stop at the door and asked the people to give them their hand luggage? That is going to take time and the prime reason the cabin crew are there is to get the passengers off quickly, that would delay it.
“People shouldn’t be taking it off, but if they do there is not much to be done.
“The only thing that maybe will happen in the future is that the overhead bins will be made lockable and locked from take-off until after landing.”
Mr Henkey, of Reading, Berkshire, was on his penultimate flight of his 42-year career with BA before retirement.
Having only to cope with two tyre bursts and two precaution engine shut downs during his career, dealing with a blazing aircraft was “a complete shock and out of the blue,” he said.
Mr Henkey predicted he may go back to the controls during his retirement, adding: “I will probably consider it next year if I start to miss flying. Yes, I probably will.”
The fire forced 157 passengers, 10 crew and three pilots, including Mr Henkey, to evacuate down emergency slides.
There were 27 people, including all crew members, who were taken to hospital with minor injuries which were mostly caused by sliding down the inflatable chutes to escape.
Mr Henkey praised his two co-pilots, saying: “We are trained to do these things, it was calm and we reacted well to the situation.”
He told LBC he was “very proud” of his team, including the cabin crew who quickly got everyone off the stricken aircraft.
Its engine was found to have “multiple breaches” in its casing, US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators have said.
In an initial report into the fire, the NTSB found parts of the engine flew out onto the runway.
The plane’s left engine – a General Electric GE90-85B – its fuselage and wing were “substantially damaged” by the fire.
BA has stated the incident happened after the aircraft ”experienced a technical issue”.
The aircraft was travelling between 40 and 100mph ahead of the 10-hour flight to Gatwick when the captain slammed the brakes on.