Copter crash: Why was pilot flying in fog?

Grant Prior 10 years ago

Visibility was so low at the time of yesterday’s central London helicopter tragedy that the crane it crashed into would not have been operating for safety reasons.

But the doomed helicopter was still allowed to fly because decisions on whether to take-off are down to individual pilots.

Helicopters over London follow strict rules and guidelines from the Civil Aviation Authority and navigation service NATS – but the final decision on flights rests with the pilot.

One qualified pilot told the Enquirer: “Only the very best and most experienced pilots would consider going up in conditions like that.

“Cloud cover was really low and even police helicopters were grounded due to the weather.

“The cloud level was 100ft in London that morning – never mind the fog and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the only helicopter up that morning as most pilots would not have taken off.

“Battersea is very tight to get in and out of and it’s very easy to get disorientated in those type of conditions.

“If you are in clouds you rely on your instruments and that depends on them being reliable.

“But if you can see you look out the window but you can’t necessarily see everything when the weather is bad.

“Weather can sometimes be very localised so conditions may have been better where he took off in Redhill and then it deteriorated.

“The authorities might have to consider insisting that all helicopter flights in London are in VFR (visual flight rule conditions) apart from the emergency services.

“That would be sensible with all the tall buildings going up.”

The dead pilot has been named as Capt Peter Barnes.

His helicopter crashed into a tower crane at Berkeley Homes’ St George Wharf site yesterday morning at 8 o’clock.

Passer-by Matthew Wood,39, from Sutton was also killed.

The crane driver and his mate had turned up late for work and were preparing to climb up to the cab when the helicopter hit.

But Berkeley chairman Tony Pidgley told the BBC the crane driver would not have been able to start lifting anyway because of the “fog level”.

He said: “The operative is just not allowed up that crane in conditions like that because you just can’t see.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed a review of warning lights on cranes and tall buildings in the wake of the tragedy while David Cameron will review rules over flights across central London.

Crash investigators will now be examining all possible causes.

A NATS spokesman said: “Earlier in the helicopter’s journey the pilot had been receiving an air traffic control service from NATS, although was not receiving a service at the time of the crash.”

The Civil Aviation Authority said: “There are requirements for lighting on tall structures. In addition, where appropriate, very tall structures are also notified to pilots for flight planning purposes, as was the case with the crane that was involved in this accident.

“The independent Air Accidents Investigation Branch is now investigating today’s accident to establish the facts. The CAA will be providing any assistance required.”



Latest news

ISG wins £600m Hertfordshire Hollywood film studio job

Holywood studio Sunset awards pre-construction contract for 90-acre studio complex in Broxbourne
2 days ago

NAO calls for road programme cuts as costs soar

Public spending watchdog calls for roads programme review amid project delays and cost overruns
2 days ago

Kier hires Laing O’Rourke veteran for London office push

Gus Wright takes up new London regional director role in January
2 days ago

VolkerFitzpatrick lands starring role on £174m film studios

Contractor to start main works on Eastbrook Studios in Dagenham
2 days ago

Wates poaches Balfour director to lead North West operation

Sarah Cooke to lead Wates Construction in the North West
2 days ago

£3.4bn Sellafield infrastructure race delayed to New Year

Contest to start in January for four partners in infrastructure delivery shake-up
2 days ago

Rebuilt TBM launches into second HS2 tunnel drive

Balfour Beatty Vinci TBM Dorothy starts second Long Itchingwood HS2 drive
3 days ago

Materials lead times back to pre-pandemic levels

Pinch points around gas boilers to persist until mid-2023 because of shortages of semiconductors
3 days ago

Bond strength helps TClarke towards £500m turnover target

Building services giant predicting a record year in 2023
3 days ago

All-clear for £125m Guildford Debenhams redevelopment

Native Land's St. Mary’s Wharf will comprise 185 homes
3 days ago

Thompsons brings down historic Redcar blast furnace – video

Redcar demolition clears the way for new net zero future
3 days ago

Wolverhampton picks McLaughlin & Harvey for £50m learning campus

Main construction to start next spring on City Learning Quarter
3 days ago

Michelmersh buys offsite brick cladding and chimney maker

Pre-built brick products producer Fabspeed sold for over £6m
3 days ago

Pagabo acquires mental health monitoring business

Framework giant makes move after Moodbeam goes into liquidation
3 days ago

Green light for London timber office block

Construction to start next year on six-storey cross-laminated timber block
4 days ago

Government pushes ahead with £3bn building safety levy plan

Affordable homes projects and small schemes developed by SMEs will be exempted
4 days ago

Rejigged £340m Museum of London plan approved

McAlpine tipped to take £340m job for new museum at Smithfield market
4 days ago

Ex-construction minister joins cladding repair firm

Intelligent FS appoints Lord Richard Harrington after government contracts send turnover surging
4 days ago

Willmott Dixon limbers up for £18m Rainham sports centre

Work to start in April on New Splashes Sports Centre in Rainham
4 days ago

Plans in for BBC’s new home in Birmingham

Project will be one of the first net zero carbon in construction office buildings
4 days ago

McLaughlin & Harvey wins Lowestoft harbour design

Lowestoft Eastern Energy Facility is expected to cost around £25m to build
5 days ago

Van Elle first-half revenue hits record £81m

Piling specialist upgrades full-year profit forecast after strong first-half trading
5 days ago

Forterra plans fourth brick price hike in 12 months

New Year increase follows 16.5% jump in October
5 days ago

640-home plan lodged for £250m Trafford scheme

Developer Glenbrook aims to start work by next summer on Lumina Village
5 days ago

Kier construction boss Liam Cummins to leave next month

Stuart Togwell to take over at Kier in New Year
5 days ago

Severfield profits jump as steel price hikes tempered

First-half pre-tax profit rises 29% to £10.2m as steel price rises successfully passed-on
5 days ago

Land deal reboots stalled Earls Court 4,500-home scheme

40-acre West London site could be redeveloped with 4,500 homes
5 days ago

Firms readied for £46m Norfolk bypass job

Work timetabled to start in 2024 on Long Stratton Bypass
5 days ago

2023 to be ‘Year of Catch-up’ for London office projects

Twenty-six schemes in demolition raising hopes of major project starts ramping up again
6 days ago

Galliford Try buys green water specialist

Latest deal boosts contractor's offering to the water sector
6 days ago

Contractor services