as BA passenger jet crashes off Heathrow runway Last updated at 18:03pm on 17th January 2008 British Airways flight BA38 from Beijing makes emergency crash landing at Heathrow All 136 passengers evacuated safely Flights diverted to Stansted, Luton and Gatwick as Heathrow south runway closed Nothing to suggest incident was terror-related, says Scotland Yard A British Airways pilot was hailed a hero today after crash- landing a packed airliner at Heathrow in a terrifying drama. The pilot had issued a mayday on the final approach to the airport after his aircraft suddenly lost power. He battled to control the plane as it flew over west London's densely populated suburbs. Airline sources said it was "extraordinary" he had avoided a crash that would have caused huge loss of life. One said: "When you lose power in an aircraft it is very difficult to keep the wing-tips level. It is a miracle he managed to bring it in safely." One passenger described how the Boeing 777, arriving from Beijing, "dropped like a stone", hitting the grass short of the main runway yards from a busy perimeter road. As it skidded across the ground, wheels snapped off, the undercarriage buckled and it shed engine parts. All 152 passengers and crew were evacuated on emergency chutes. Ambulances and fire crews raced to the scene and six people were taken to hospital with minor injuries. British Airways has issued a number for people concerned about relatives on the flight: 0800 389 4193 The plane - BA flight 038 carrying 16 crew and 136 passengers - landed at 12.42pm. One passenger told how it came in at a "funny angle". He said: "We just bellyflopped on to the grass right at the beginning of the airport and skidded along the grass. Passengers were evacuated with emergency slides and six were taken to the nearby Hillingdon Hospital with minor injuries. BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said: I am delighted to say that our flight and cabin crew have acted incredibly professionally and they have safely evacuated all 136 passengers." Confirming that there is a formal investigation underway, he said that it would be "inappropriate" to speculate on the likely cause of the crash. All flights into and out of the airport suffered delays, including a flight due to take Prime Minister Gordon Brown to China. Many flights have been delayed and the southern runway remains closed. Detectives in the Prime Minister's motorcade, who witnessed the incident, at first worried that the plane was being flown towards Gordon Brown's entourage, sparking fears of a terrorist attack. Daily Mail journalist Robert Hardman was on a plane at the airport as the drama unfolded. He said: "He seemed to be coasting in comfortably over the Terminal Four approach road. Suddenly, he seemed to make a small jerk, dipping his port wing a little. Then his nose suddenly lifted - but not much. "Maybe he had hit a light gust of wind? During my brief training, I had been told that the pilot should lift the nose when he is about 20 feet off the ground. This plane was a good deal higher than that." "His rear wheels appeared to be down. Looking back, I'm not sure whether his front wheel was there or not. "But, all of a sudden, there was a long-haul airliner skidding along the runway in a great cloud of black smoke, flame and flying bits of blackness." The flight stopped just 1,000 metres from the Prime Minister's plane - but Scotland Yard have said there is no indication so far that the crash was related to terrorism. Eyewitness John Rowland said: "The plane's wheels collapsed. On its approach it took the runway too low, just missing the roof of my cab. "It crashed into the runway, debris was flying everywhere, there was an enormous bang and it skidded sideways." Daily Mail Political Editor Benedict Brogan, who is on the Prime Minister's plane, said: "I can see the plane has come off the runway due to a lack of undercarriage. It is sitting at an odd angle." "From where I sit, it's come down at a bad angle and one of the wings appears to have been damaged. It's in the grass and the slides are down. "The BA airbus from Shanghai we are told is surrounded by fire engines but there is no sign of smoke." The pilot on the Prime Minister's plane described the incident to passengers as "a significant incident". Aviation expert Kieran Daly from Flight International magazine said he was shocked by the incident, given the aircraft, airline and airport involved. "The 777 is pretty much state-of-the-art at the moment, even though it has been around for quite a long time. "It's very difficult to understand what might have gone wrong. "We're talking about one of the most advanced aircraft in the world, operated by one of the most safety-conscious airlines in the world, flying into one of the safest airports in the world. "It's quite a surprise." One passenger, Jerome Ensink, told Sky News that the gravity of the situation did not really sink in until they were on the ground looking up at the plane. Before that, he said, "I think you're at the point of wondering should I bring my luggage or not ...". One passenger told the BBC that he felt as if he had "won the lottery" in surviving the crash. "We just belly-flopped on to the grass right at the beginning of the airport and skidded along the grass," he said.