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AW109 Helicopter Crash In London ‘Must Lead To Flight Safety Improvements’

Aviation Lawyer Highlights The Importance Of Prompt Answers


Quickly identifying the factual circumstances are key to improving flight safety and reassuring the public following the shocking AgustaWestland 109 helicopter crash in central London in which two people were killed and 12 others injured, specialist aviation lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have urged.

Experienced pilot Pete Barnes died when the aircraft struck a crane above the St George Wharf Tower in Vauxhall and came down into nearby Wandsworth Road at around 08:00 GMT on Wednesday (January 16th).

Metropolitan Police, the Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are now working together to investigate the incident, while both Prime Minister David Cameron and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson have said that regulations in relation to flying over built-up areas  may need to be reviewed following the crash.

Irwin Mitchell’s London-based Aviation Law team represents the victims injured in air accidents in the UK and abroad, as well as the families of those killed in such accidents.  Jim Morris, formerly a pilot in the Royal Air Force and now an aviation lawyer and Partner in the Irwin Mitchell team, has specialist expertise in representing the victims of helicopter accidents.

Commenting on the tragedy, he said: “It remains very early days in terms of the investigation of this tragic incident, so it would undoubtedly be unwise to speculate on likely causes until more information has been gathered. 

“It is to be hoped that the AAIB will quickly publish a Preliminary Report to inform the aviation industry and public of the factual circumstances surrounding the accident, so that measures can be taken quickly to improve the safety of helicopter flights over London. 

“Following the recent Super Puma helicopter crash into the North Sea on 22 October 2012, the AAIB published a detailed Special Bulletin two days later - it quickly identified the key problems that led to the accident which was of great benefit to the oil rig worker passengers, who we represent, in helping them understand why the helicopter crashed and enabled Eurocopter and Eurocopter operators to take prompt measures to prevent a similar accident happening again.

“The crash in London is obviously different and arguably more difficult to investigate, as the helicopter was so badly damaged and the pilot sadly died, but we hope that there will be a Special Bulletin or Preliminary Report in the very near future.

“Working alongside the CAA and the police, the AAIB will need to consider all aspects of this incident to identify the full chain of events that lead to the helicopter colliding with the crane, including the weather conditions at the time of the incident, the current regulations for helicopters flying at low levels over London, the pilot's training and medical records, the radar track of the helicopter's flight path, communications between the pilot and air traffic services  and whether any mechanical or technical faults with the helicopter or its systems contributed.

Jim added that early publication of a Preliminary Report will reassure the public that flight safety is being improved while they await the publication of the Final Accident report, which could take over 12 months.

He commented: “All of those injured and the families of those tragically killed will want to understand what caused this terrible incident  Given the number of helicopters in the skies over London daily, it is also imperative that lessons are learned to ensure that this never happens again.”