After 170 people evacuated safely from a British Airways B777 that burst into flames on the runway in Las Vegas, questions are being asked about why passengers insisted on getting their cabin baggage from the overhead lockers before jumping down the emergency slide to escape the blazing plane.
It’s against the rules. Passengers are meant to leave their belongings behind. Some seemed keener to save their bags than themselves – willing to risk burning alive to save their possessions.
Calls are mounting for overhead lockers to be automatically locked from the cockpit on take-off and landing, until the seatbelt signs are switched off. Fiddling around to retrieve baggage in an emergency could cost lives.
Fire broke out in the port (left-hand) engine of the BA 777-200 on the runway at Las Vegas McCarran International airport as the plane was about to depart for London Gatwick with 157 passengers and 13 crew aboard. The engine suffered catastrophic failure, scattering engine parts across the runway, and burning so fiercely it melted part of the aircraft fuselage.
Veteran BA Captain Chris Henkey made the right decisions, aborted the take-off and brought the aircraft to a halt, called for emergency fire assistance and ordered an evacuation. He handled the emergency “by the book” and did everything right. His calm and quick action is credited with saving many lives. More than 20 people sustained minor injuries.
It turns out that Henkey, 63, was just days from retiring. After more than four decades in the air, he says it’s “unlikely” he will fly again.
“It’s safe to say I’m finished flying,” Henkey NBC News in a phone interview from a hotel room, where he was waiting to talk to investigators.
“I know the papers are saying, ‘He’s a hero,’ ” Henkey added, referring to news reports giving him the credit. “We have to remember there are two other pilots and cabin crew who all behaved very, very well.”
Written by Peter Needham