Weather conditions central to air crash investigators probe into London helicopter accident

 

Weather conditions will be central to the inquiry into today's helicopter crash by accident investigators.

The key question that the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) team will want an answer to is: "Was visibility suitable for a helicopter flight over London?"

Battersea Heliport in south London has said that the pilot of the helicopter had requested to divert and land there due to bad weather.

Earlier, it is thought that the pilot had had to abandon his plan to land at Elstree in Hertfordshire due to fog.

The AAIB will check with weather forecasters and find that cloud in central London was low at the time of the accident.

The investigators will also want to find out what conditions were like at Redhill in Surrey from where the helicopter is thought to have taken off.

Forecasters at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said there were very misty conditions over south east England this morning, with some dense fog in places.

It added that areas around London and to the north of the capital were shrouded in low cloud, down as low as 200ft, and areas of freezing fog.

Weather stations at Stansted in Essex, Luton in Bedfordshire and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire all reported foggy conditions this morning.

The conditions were bad enough for London City Airport - at London Docklands - to announce flight delays.

Although helicopter flight over London is governed by strict regulations and pilots are under the control of air traffic control company Nats, decisions on whether to take off are down to pilots.

Peter Norton, chief executive of civilian helicopter trade organisation the British Helicopter Association, said: "Rules, routes and regulations concerning flying over London are well documented and familiar to pilots.

"It is a captain's decision on whether the conditions are fit for flying. Captains will be in touch with air traffic controllers but it's a decision for captains."

The Civil Aviation Authority lays down the routes that helicopters must take over London. Normally flights by single-engined helicopters are prohibited except along the route of the River Thames.

Some helicopter pilots are licensed to fly when conditions dictate the use of instruments.

But helicopters travelling over London are subject to visual flight rules.

There are various agreed starting-off points for helicopters entering the London area, with places from which they must report their position and other places where they may be put in a holding position.

It could be that the AAIB, as it normally does in major incidents, will issue a short interim report within days.

This report is likely to outline the basic facts of the incident, with a fuller report possibly taking some time to come out.

A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesman said: "Helicopter operations in central London are strictly controlled. Single-engine helicopters are required to fly along designated routes, which have been selected to provide maximum safety by routing helicopters along the River Thames, avoiding flying over built-up areas as much as possible.

"Twin-engine helicopters can operate in wider areas. However, all aircraft operating in central London are subject to air traffic control clearance."

He went on: "There are requirements for lighting on tall structures. In addition, where appropriate, very tall structures are also notified to pilots for flight planning purposes, as was the case with the crane that was involved in this morning's accident."

The CAA added that it would provide any assistance required by the AAIB.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links