London Helicopter Crash Report Cites Poor Visibility

 - January 24, 2013, 3:25 PM

The UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch released factual details yesterday on the fatal crash of an AgustaWestland A109E helicopter in central London last week, highlighting the poor visibility the pilot was facing. The light twin hit a 719-foot-high crane jib at 7:59:25 a.m., killing the pilot and one person in the street below. It was flying back to Redhill after an aborted attempt to land at Elstree aerodrome.

Transit via the London Eye was approved in “VFR or special VFR.” At 07:56, the pilot requested a diversion to London Heliport in Battersea. The controller contacted the heliport “to see what their cloud [was] looking like.” The heliport’s answer is unknown thus far, but London City Airport was reporting visibility of 2,300 feet with a broken cloud base at 100 feet.

Though current rules prohibit non-IFR flights in the London Control Zone when visibility is less than 3,300 feet, ATC told the pilot at 7:59:10 that the diversion was approved. The tops of the crane and the adjacent building, near Vauxhall Bridge, were obscured by cloud at that time.