Chris Henkey, the pilot who’s being called a hero for his fast and calm handling of a potentially disastrous situation, is due to retire next week after 42 years in the cockpit.
Henkey, 63, was down to his last flights as a British Airways pilot before an engine caught fire on the runway in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Now he’s saying that the incident, in which 159 passengers and 13 crew members scrambled to safety while the plane burned on the tarmac, has likely hastened his retirement.
“It’s safe to say I’m finished flying,” Henkey tells NBC News. A former pub owner, he now says it’s unlikely that he’ll make his planned last flight as a pilot — to Barbados, where he was to meet up with his daughter for a vacation.
As of last night, Henkey was still in Las Vegas, staying in a hotel room while investigators look into the cause of Tuesday’s incident. He wasn’t publicly identified until one day after the engine fire.
The pilot, who is from Padworth in Reading, Berkshire, tells NBC that it was the first time he had faced such dire circumstances. But the plane’s passengers and others have praised Henkey’s handling of the situation, as he quickly alerted airport emergency crews and brought his Boeing 777 to a stop.
“We are evacuating on the runway,” Henkey told the air traffic control tower after announcing a mayday. “We have a fire. I repeat, we are evacuating.”
The more than 170 people who had been on the plane all survived; most of the injuries reported were sustained during the evacuation process.
Henkey quickly got in touch with his family to let them know he was OK. His daughter, Charley, 26, told the Reading Chronicle, “I think the most emotional part is that I am just so proud of him.”