Passengers aboard Flight 2276 departing to London, Gatwick were counting their blessings Tuesday afternoon.
It was a close call for the British Airways Boeing 777. The plane was preparing to take off from McCarran International Airport, in Las Vegas, when an engine failure sent huge clouds of black smoke billowing into the air.
Jon Klassen is the Clark County Deputy Fire Chief. He gave an interview to The Associated Press and told them that the fire didn’t make its way into the cabin. However, there were reports stating the flames were so intense that the plane’s windows melted!
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the technical problems, but at this time it is suspected that the suppression equipment wasn’t working properly and that there may have been a ruptured fuel line involved.
Pilot, Chris Henkey was in charge alongside two senior pilots. Total there were thirteen crew members and 159 passengers.
Thanks to the quick thinking, skillful maneuvering and calm reacting of the crew, there were only a handful of minor injuries. Henkey was forced to hit the brakes hard and steer the plane to a safe place all while placing a mayday call with air traffic control and asking for fire fighters!
Twenty-seven passengers were sent to Sunrise Hospital for care but as of Wednesday, everybody was released. Klassen reported that almost all of the injuries were acquired while escaping the plane. Four inflatable slides were deployed for passengers to exit the plane and a few accidents on the chute were to blame for the hospital visits.
The passengers that were not injured were sent to local hotels. As was the crew and Henkey for further questioning.
British Airways released their own statement about the incident. They said:
“Our crew evacuated the aircraft safely and the fire was quickly extinguished by the emergency services at the airport. A small number of customers and our crew have been taken to hospital. All customers have been provided with hotel accommodation, and our colleagues are helping them with anything further they require.”
For Henkey, the timing could not have been stranger for this accident. The sixty-three year old pilot was just two flights away from retirement. He told reporters that this was the first emergency he had dealt with in his 42 years as a pilot. Despite not having experience in an emergency situation, his passengers applauded him for helping them all escape a close call. Humbled by the cheering, he made sure it was known that he wasn’t working alone. He said:
“It’s not just me. It’s the whole crew, really, (that helped).”
His last flight was going to be a trip to Barbados where he was going to meet his daughter for a vacation, but after Tuesday’s scare he it looks like that won’t be happening. He told reporters:
“It’s safe to say I’m finished flying.”
CNN “Burning plane’s pilot hailes as hero” Youtube. 9 September 2015. Web. 10 September 2015.