London Helicopter Crash Prompts Review of Rules

 - January 21, 2013, 2:30 PM

The UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch has begun its work to discover the causes of an accident in which an AgustaWestland AW109 Power helicopter crashed in central London on January 16, killing its pilot and the driver of a car. But British Prime Minister David Cameron has already ordered a wider review of the regulation of helicopter flights over the UK capital in the wake of the incident, in which the aircraft crashed just before 8 a.m. into a newly erected crane on a high-rise building in the Vauxhall district.

Capt. Pete Barnes was flying the aircraft, operated by UK charter firm RotorMotion, from Redhill to collect a passenger at Elstree and had requested a diversion to the London Heliport, apparently due to deteriorating weather conditions. Meteorological reports from nearby London City Airport at the time of the accident recorded broken clouds as low as 100 feet and visibility of 2,300 feet.

The 770-foot-high crane had recently been erected alongside the under-construction St. George’s Wharf Tower and had been the subject of a January 7 Notam. Investigators are determining whether the crane was fitted with the required warning lights and whether these were working at the time of the crash. AIN visited the crash scene after the accident and saw warning lights on the building itself but not on the crane.

This is the first helicopter accident in London since the current recording system began in 1976. The accident scene is surrounded by residential property and offices, so the impact of the crash could have been far worse.