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Last Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008, 17:44 GMT
Co-pilot controlled crash-landing
Senior First Officer John Coward, Captain Peter Burkill and Cabin Services Director Sharron Eaton-Mercer
The trio received loud cheers as Captain Burkill made his statement
A British Airways jet that crash-landed at Heathrow was being controlled by the co-pilot, it has been revealed.

Captain Peter Burkill, 43, told a press conference Senior First Officer John Coward brought the plane in to land on Thursday afternoon.

An initial report in to the crash has shown the engines "did not respond" to a demand for increased thrust as the plane came in to land.

All 136 passengers and 16 crew survived the incident.

Mr Burkill, along with Mr Coward and Cabin Services Director Sharron Eaton-Mercer, were greeted with massive applause ahead of their first short statement about the crash.

During his speech at the airline's headquarters he praised all the crew for showing "the highest standards of skill and professionalism".

Two large cranes have been moved into position around the aircraft, to enable investigators to continue their inquiry in to how the plane was forced to ditch short of the runway.

Flying is about teamwork and we had an outstanding team on board
Captain Peter Burkill

Mr Burkill, who was unable to comment on what caused the incident, praised the passengers and rescue staff for the way they reacted when the plane was forced to ditch short of the runway.

"As British Airways flight and cabin crew we are trained on a regular basis to deal with emergency situations," he said.

"We have procedures to follow and everyone knows their place.

"Flying is about teamwork and we had an outstanding team on board."

He said Mr Coward had done a "most remarkable job" in landing the aircraft.

Crane preparing to lift plane
Two large cranes are being used to lift the plane

First Officer Conor Magenis was also praised after he "continually assisted" in the operation.

Mr Burkill and Mr Coward are said to have shared a curry on Thursday night after the incident.

Ms Eaton-Mercer only left the aircraft after she was certain those on the flight deck were unharmed, Mr Burkill said.

"I want to thank the passengers too for their calmness and good sense during extremely unfamiliar circumstances," Mr Burkill said.

He also thanked the fire, ambulance and police personnel for their quick response to the crash.

The Chief Inspector of Air Accidents, David King, warned it could take some time to discover the cause of the crash, but he would act immediately if investigations reveal safety concerns.

Extremely reliable

The plane is thought to have suffered a sudden loss of power on approach.

Theories about the cause of the crash include:

  • Mechanical or electronic failure
  • Birds flying into engines
  • Sudden wind change
  • Pilot error

So far BA are not grounding any of the 43 Boeing 777 planes in its fleet.

The aircraft is generally thought by experts to be extremely reliable, with no serious accidents reported since it was introduced in 1996.

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