'I thought I was going to die' says crash-land pilot

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The Independent Online

The former British Airways pilot whose stricken jet crash-landed at Heathrow Airport two years ago spoke today of his fear that all 152 people on board would die.

Captain Peter Burkill and co-pilot John Coward were hailed as heroes for averting catastrophe when the plane came down 330 metres short of the runway but within the airfield boundary on January 17 2008.

Casualties were limited, with just 34 passengers and 12 cabin crew suffering minor injuries.

An investigation into the crash concluded that the plane lost power due to a restricted fuel flow to both engines, which had probably been caused by a build-up of ice.

Capt Burkill, who took voluntary redundancy from BA last year, told the BBC he continued to be affected by the crash: "I always think about it - as well as my wife - it will probably never leave me."

Describing the moment the plane lost power just as it was landing, he said: "It naturally became apparent that we were going to crash and we were not going to make the runway.

"My view of that accident from that point was that we were going to start descending very quickly - about an 1,800ft (548.64m) descent rate - and I could see the impact point was going to be around about the Hatton Cross area which includes catering buildings, a Tube station and a petrol station."

Capt Burkill said the priority was to get the plane over any buildings and away from the Heathrow perimeter road.

He handed the controls to Mr Coward while he raised the plane's flaps to reduce the drag from the wings in a bid to reduce the rate of descent.

"When I realised we were coming in far too steeply with the loss of power and we were heading towards the buildings, I had to reduce the drag, and as we were going to crash on ground, I needed the (landing) gear," he said.

"The gear was going to take most of the brunt of the crash so I daren't raise that up."

As the plane hit the ground and slid 372 metres before coming to rest, he believed he was going to die.

He said: "We were now in an aircraft on the ground that was sliding uncontrollably and at that point I thought I was going to die, so I said goodbye to my wife."

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