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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 January 2008, 09:27 GMT
BA pilot 'feared all would die'
Senior First Officer John Coward, Captain Peter Burkill, Cabin Services Director Sharron Eaton-Mercer
Mr Coward paid tribute to the actions of his colleagues
The co-pilot of the British Airways jet that crash-landed at Heathrow feared everyone on board was going to die before he steered the plane to safety.

Senior First Officer John Coward told the Sunday Mirror he believed there was going to be a "catastrophic crash".

But he said he was only doing his job when he managed to land the stricken Boeing 777 safely just inside the airport's perimeter fence on Thursday.

The plane will be moved to a hangar on the eastern side of the airport later.

The wreckage of flight BA038 will be placed on three electronically controlled wheeled platforms so it can be transported 500 metres to BA's airline's engineering base, where investigators will continue with their examination.

'Shuddered to a halt'

Mr Coward, 41, told the Sunday Mirror how he became aware of a loss of power on board the plane on the final approach to the airport.

"Suddenly there was nothing from any of the engines, and the plane started to glide," he said.

The crew, the passengers, and everybody else acted heroically. Flying is definitely all about teamwork and that is what we all displayed
Senior First Officer John Coward

"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."

He added: "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."

He said that after the crash "there was no sound at all. No sound from the engines, no sound from behind.

"I turned around and composed myself and heard a lot of commotion behind me. I realised that staff were trying to carry out the drills to evacuate all the passengers.

Mr Coward, who lives in France with his French wife and three children, said he had been left haunted by the incident and has been unable to sleep since Thursday.


Mr Coward, who was credited by his captain, Peter Burkill, for averting a major crash, said he was humbled by people calling him a hero, but said: "I was only doing my job."

Crane at Heathrow crash site
The crashed plane is set to be moved to a hangar

"The crew, the passengers, and everybody else acted heroically. Flying is definitely all about teamwork and that is what we all displayed," he added.

Earlier Captain Burkill said Mr Coward had done a "most remarkable job" in landing the aircraft. He also praised all the crew for showing "the highest standards of skill and professionalism".

All 136 passengers and 16 crew on the British Airways flight from Beijing survived - one person suffered a broken leg and others received minor injuries during the emergency evacuation.

An initial report into the crash-landing by the Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) found the jet's engines failed to respond to demands for increased thrust from the crew two miles from touchdown.

The AAIB is now investigating "the range of aircraft systems that could influence engine operation", and a more detailed analysis of the flight recorder is also taking place.

The results of the investigations are expected within 30 days.

BA said its specialist recovery team used hydraulic jacks and air bags to position eight canvas strops under the belly of the hull of the aircraft at Heathrow so that the three platforms could be positioned.

Bruce Hunter, general manager operational maintenance, said: "The next stage of this delicate operation will take several hours to complete as the team works meticulously to make sure the aircraft is moved slowly and safely to its new location."

Graphic showing how incident unfolded on approach into Heathrow

Aerial footage of Thursday's crash site

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