Capt Barnes came to the North East in the 1990s and spent three years at Metro Radio where he became what was thought to be Britain’s first ever “eye in the sky” traffic and travel broadcaster.
Presenter Alan Robson became a good friend to the pilot both through his time at Metro and when the pair worked together on Tyne Tees TV show, Robson’s Personal Call, where they would fly around the region helping people.
Alan said: “I worked with him for three years and knew him really, really well.
“He left Metro in 1997 when Hollywood started calling and he was better situated back down south.
“We kept in touch and often bumped into each other.” Alan described his friend as “a great guy” who took “a lot of care making sure things weren’t a risk when he was flying up here and I know he would have been the same in anything else that he did”.
Capt Barnes originally worked as a ski instructor and guide in Europe after completing a business studies degree, then went into advertising.
He later moved to the United States to train as a helicopter pilot, earning a Commercial and Instructors Licence flying helicopters around Florida and the East Coast.
At the time of his death, he was living near Reading while working as a freelance pilot for RotorMotion, a company which counts among its clients Newcastle-born singer Cheryl Cole, the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister David Cameron, ex-PM Tony Blair and the Dalai Lama.
On its website, RotorMotion said Capt Barnes had worked for it since 1997 and was one of the country’s most experienced Agusta pilots and an instructor. It said clients often requested him for “both his piloting skills and his relaxed, charming manner“.
The company’s MD, Captain Philip Amadeus said the aircraft involved in yesterday’s crash was on a commercial flight from Redhill, in Surrey, to Elstree.
Since the crash, questions have been raised about the brightness of safety lighting on the crane being used by construction workers building a tower block near Vauxhall Bridge.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said the issue would be reviewed in light of the accident, but said it was “too early to draw conclusions from this accident about this or that tall building”.
The police and fire brigade are working with other agencies including the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the Civil Aviation Authority.
Eyewitness and mother-of-five Sharon Moore, who lives near the crash site, said she saw the aircraft slice through the crane “as if it was a piece of paper”. She said: “The helicopter did not seem to know which way to turn and then it just dropped, it sliced, screeching into the metal.”
Staff at Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey confirmed the helicopter left the site at 7.35am, while the owner of London Heliport said Mr Barnes requested to land at one of its sites via Heathrow air traffic control.
But the Heliport never established contact with the pilot and shortly before 8am the emergency services started to receive hundreds of calls reporting the crash.