Crash Landing Pilot John Coward Is a Hero

Co-pilot is credited with saving the lives of 152 passengers.

ByABC News via logo
February 9, 2009, 3:43 PM

Jan. 19, 2008— -- The British pilot who made an emergency crash landing into London's Heathrow airport is now being hailed as a hero.

British Airways Flight 038 was forced to make an emergency landing after suffering catastrophic engine failure on Thursday.

The plane's crash was razor-close to becoming a disaster -- just seconds away from slamming into a busy roadway -- but, thanks to the quick thinking of co-pilot John Coward, all 152 passengers and crew landed safely.

At a British Airways-sponsored press conference Captain Paul Burkill explained that it was actually First Officer Coward "who was the handling pilot on the final approach, and did the most remarkable job."

"As Captain of the aircraft I am proud to say that every member of my team played their part expertly yesterday, displaying the highest standards of skill and professionalism," Burkill said. "Flying is about teamwork, and we had an outstanding team on board yesterday."

Burkill also singled out cabin service director Sharron Eaton-Mercer: "It was typical of her selflessness that she took time to check that we on the flight deck were all right before going down the chute herself."

The emergency started two miles from the runway at an altitude of 600 feet, during the plane's final descent. The aircraft's computer-controlled throttle tried to increase engine power. The engines did not respond.

It tried again. Then, the flight crew took over and tried to increase power manually. Again, no response. The plane slammed into the ground. It all happened in less than a minute.

There are only a few ways both engines could have failed at once -- an electronics problem, a failure to get fuel to the engines, or pilot error.

Today, investigators confirmed both engines lost power seconds from landing, and are preparing to move the plane and its debris from the runway.

The next step for investigators will be to identify if whatever brought this plane down affects the nearly 700 777's flying around the world today.