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Co-pilot steered stricken Heathrow jet to safety

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Senior first officer John Coward feared everyone on board British Airways Flight BA38 was going to die in a "catastrophic crash", the Sunday Mirror reports. Coward landed the Boeing 777, registration G-YMMM, by putting it down with a "series of thuds as it bounced along the grass" 400 metres short of the runway threshold, and just within Heathrow's perimeter fence at Hatton Cross last Thursday. All on board survived.

Speaking from his family home in France last night he said "As the final approach started I became aware that there was no power. Suddenly there was nothing from any of the engines, and the plane started to glide." This "total loss of power and avionics" occurred at a height of 600ft above Hounslow, two nautical miles from touchdown and within one minute's flying time of the airport. He added: "I didn't think we'd clear the fence at first. As we landed I was bracing myself for an enormous thud. But instead of one thud, there was a series of thuds as it bounced along the grass. Eventually it shuddered to a halt. While I was trying to stop the plane, I struggled to try and keep it in a straight line."

Co-pilot Coward was under the command of Captain Peter Burkill, who said Mr Coward had done a "most remarkable job" in landing the aircraft and praised him and all his crew for showing "the highest standards of skill and professionalism".

All 136 passengers and 16 crew on board escaped - 18 of the passengers needed treatment including one with a broken leg - there were no fatalities. The plane was removed from the end of runway 27L during the afternoon of Sunday 20th January.

Members of the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) have been working on G-YMMM (built in 2001 and one of 43 in the British Airways fleet) continuously since the crash-landing to determine the cause of the failure.


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External links

  • Daily Mail David Spalton's photos - Caught on camera: Last moments of Flight BA38's dramatic descent into Heathrow
  • BBC Online David Spalton's account: Plane passengers 'touched by God'
  • BBC Photos