The hero pilot whose quick thinking actions saved passengers in Las Vegas runway fire is due to retire next week the Reading Chronicle can exclusively reveal.

Chris Henkey was at the controls of the Boeing 777 and was taxiing to take off to Gatwick when the fire broke out yesterday evening. Passengers had to use the emergency slides to evacuate the plane.

The 63-year-old from Padworth, just south of the M4, has been hailed a hero by the passengers who said by bringing the plane to a standstill they could escape the blaze.

Mr Henkey's daughter Charley revealed it was to be one of his last flights as an experienced BA pilot.

Speaking exclusively to The Chronicle Charley, 26, said “how proud” she was of her father.

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The chiropractor, currently on holiday in the Bahamas, said she was "extremely emotional" after receiving a text from her father telling her there had been a “massive explosion”.

She said: “I was just heading out to dinner with my best friend when I got a text from Dad saying there had been a massive explosion on the plane but that he was OK.

“I couldn't sleep all night, because I was just waiting to get a call from him.

“I think the most emotional part is that I am just so proud of him."

Mr Henkey's wife Lenka, who works at the Royal Berkshire Hospital said:"He's a hero, he's a great man."

"I am very shocked but glad no-one was hurt and that he will be fine. He acts very cool under pressure, he is very calm and a real professional.

"He phoned me straightaway after the fire and told me what happened and I was just relieved he was okay. He is due to retire soon and unfortunately no-one could have predicted that this would happen. I am looking forward to getting him home and getting him back.

"I don't know what will happen next and I don't really remember much of what he said had happened because I was in shock."

She said she had also received more than 60 messages of support from friends and relatives.

Mr Henkey, 63, is a former publican who once ran the Hatch Gate Inn in Burghfield.

He has worked as a pilot for 42 years.

Ms Henkey said that this was supposed to be her father's last flight before he went into retirement.

She said: “This was supposed to be one of his last flights. I just hope he gets to fly again before he retires so that he ends on a high. He was supposed to be joining me in Barbados on Saturday for the end of the holiday, but I'm not sure now what is going to happen.”

Mr Henkey currently lives in Padworth with his 40-year-old wife Lenka.

Roger Beale, a close friend and neighbour of the pilot, said: “I know him very well, he's a very nice guy. I recognised his voice on the radio this morning.

"I wasn't surprised to hear what he had done. He is a very clever guy."

Shocking video footage and photographs show the 157 passengers and 13 crew fleeing the flaming plane as plumes of black smoke billowed into the Nevada sky.

Fourteen people had to be taken to local hospitals for treatments for minor injuries.

  • Captain Chris Henkey's mayday call after a "massive explosion" on his Boeing 777 on the Las Vegas airport runway