Boeing crash: 'You could tell that the pilot was desperate'

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The Independent Online

Passengers on BA38 spoke of their horror last night as they felt their "desperate" pilot, Captain Peter Burkhill, struggle to keep the Boeing 777 straight while preparing for a crash landing.

One of those on board, Paul Venter, described how the plane simply "dropped" out of the sky. "The wheels came out and went for touchdown and the next moment we just dropped," he said. "I couldn't tell you how far." He said that when he saw the pilot later "he looked very pale".

Another passenger, Neil Jones, agreed that the pilot was heroic against the odds.

"The aircraft was banking to the left and it was coming in very low over the surrounding houses," he said. "The plane was significantly lower than it would normally be.

"You could tell the pilot was desperately trying to get the plane down. The aircraft hit the grass and there was a lot of dirt. The pilot was struggling to keep the plane straight. I think he did a great job."

Jason Johnson, who was also on board, told of how the aircraft spun like a washing machine. "We came in very, very fast. It's something I've never been in before," Mr Johnson said. "Once it landed, it spun 90 degrees. I felt like I was in a washing machine. The plane then came to a complete halt."

Once on the ground the plane's "very pale" captian and his crew – whose calm reaction was praised by witnesses and BA last night – announced that an evacuation was taking place. "We were told by the hostesses, 'please evacuate, follow our guidance'. I was worried about the fuel bursting into flames, the wings were making cracking sounds, the sound was very, very loud," said Mr Johnson.