AN investigation has revealed pilot Pete Barnes was warned about poor visibility on the morning he was killed in a helicopter crash.
The 50-year-old, who previously helped save lives across the North East with his work as a pilot with the Great North Air Ambulance, suffered multiple injuries when his aircraft clipped a high-rise crane on The Tower at St George Wharf, South London, and fell to the ground.
A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has now revealed Mr Barnes contacted air traffic control after setting off on January 16 despite the weather warning.
Less than an hour after setting off and just seven seconds before the fatal crash, Capt Barnes was in radio contact with staff requesting to land at London Heliport in Battersea. He asked: “Is Battersea open, do you know?”
Being told ‘yes’, he replied: “If I could head to Battersea that would be very useful.”
After being given approval to land, he ended the brief radio conversation with his final words: “Thanks a lot.”
Seven seconds later, just before 8am, the helicopter began to turn right and crashed into the crane. Pedestrian Matthew Wood, 39, was also killed as he walked to work.
The report by the AAIB details how Mr Barnes, a veteran pilot who also used to work for Metro Radio in Newcastle as a traffic and travel correspondent, was contacted by a client at 7.20am wanting to discuss the weather.
Capt Barnes, a dad-of-two described as “a good guy”, had been heading to Elstree in Hertfordshire to pick up the client and another passenger and take them to the North of England.
During the phone call, the, client suggested Capt Barnes postpone the journey because of poor visibility, and that he’d drive to Elstree and call with an update.
Mr Barnes texted his client at 7.29am saying: “I’m coming anyway will land in a field if I have to.”
The AAIB will now conduct a detailed inspection of the helicopter wreckage, helicopter maintenance documents and an analysis of weather conditions.
It will also look at the conduct of Mr Barnes’ flight and lighting of obstacles.