British Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered a review of the regulation of helicopter flights over central London in the wake of an accident yesterday in which an AgustaWestland AW109 Power crashed into a newly erected crane on a high-rise building in the UK capital’s Vauxhall district. The accident claimed the life of pilot Pete Barnes, the sole occupant of the helicopter, which was being operated by UK-based charter firm RotorMotion. Also killed was the driver of a car hit when the aircraft crashed to the ground just before 8 a.m. after striking the 770-foot-high crane, which had been the subject of a January 7 notam.
The crash site is less than a mile from Britain’s Houses of Parliament and a few blocks from the headquarters of the country’s MI6 intelligence services, prompting early speculation that the crash had been an act of terrorism. This theory was quickly dismissed, and the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch has moved the wreckage of the AW109 to its Farnborough headquarters.
One early question raised by a senior London police officer was whether or not the crane had carried the required emergency warning lights. In fact, the notam indicates that the crane was “not lit.” Barnes had been flying from Redhill to collect a passenger at Elstree and had requested a diversion to the London Heliport.