Hero pilot fights shy of praise

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The airline pilot who safely landed his crippled aircraft with 60 passengers on board yesterday refused to accept the praise heaped upon him.

Captain John Jones, 40, modestly declined to talk about his bravery and told his employers at British Airways: "I was only doing my job."

Mr Jones, who landed his Advanced Turbo Prop aircraft at Manchester Airport after circling for three tense hours to use up excess fuel when his undercarriage developed a problem, spent several hours being interviewed by accident investigators yesterday.

But afterwards he refused to talk about the incident and left to spend a quiet evening at his home in Derbyshire.

Mike Bathgate, the British Regional Airlines' commercial director, said: "The captain is a very private individual. He believes it was very much a combined effort between him and the three other crew and just part of what he has simulated in training many, many times.

But he said the passengers, bound for Knock in Ireland, had hailed the pilot as a hero. "It was a text book example of how to handle the aircraft in the circumstances," he said.

As the pilot brought the aircraft to a halt on the runway, passengers who were evacuated down an emergency chute said they saw sparks flying into the air from the left wing as it was dragged along the runway. John Brennan, from Bradford, west Yorkshire, said the captain had announced they were going to make a crash landing.

"As we came down, I looked across at the wing and flames were shooting off with the friction from the tarmac. I thought that was it and that the wing was going to come into my lap, but somehow we got down OK."

Mr Bathgate said there had been no similar problems on any of the airline's fleet of 15 ATP aircraft. The aeroplane involved had its last full maintenance at the end of May and was due for another in three months' time.