I wouldn’t normally want to pre judge the reasons for an Air Accident but I’m getting a bit fed up with the twaddle appearing on the BBC and radio about the incident today where a helicopter appears to have hit a crane. Listening to Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, making political points over it on the BBC just now is too much. Checking the NOTAMs for London, the following is in force between 07 Jan 2013 17:00 GMT and 15 Mar 2013 23:59 GMT.
HIGH RISE JIB CRANE (LIT AT NIGHT) OPR WI 1NM 5129N 00007W, HGT 770FT AMSL (VAUXHALL, CENTRAL LONDON), OPS CTC 020 7820 #### 12-10-0429/AS 2.
A NOTAM, or notice to Airman, is issued to all pilots and they’re required to check them against their flight plan in case there’s anything important they need to know about. In my day it was done on paper – now it’s on-line and really easy to check. This is basically saying there’s a crane erected that’s 770′ high at this location in Vauxhall. It’s lit at night (but not during the day). Keep at least a mile away.
It was clearly foggy, so the pilot should have given it a wide berth. On the face of it, it appears he didn’t. Eyewitnesses don’t report anything unusual about the helicopter.
Helicopters are supposed to be flying in to London over the Thames in order to provide a “safe” landing area in the event of trouble. (That’s safe to the people on the ground, at least). It appears to have been broadly in the right place. Ms Hoey is being populist, but then again, that’s her job.
News reports now say that the helicopter had diverted; this might explain why the pilot wasn’t aware of the crane it the original route went nowhere near it, although flight plans should have diversion plans and NOTAMs for diversions should also be checked.
Much is now being made of people who said the lighting wasn’t good enough. Lighting in daylight isn’t normal (or useful) anyway, and neither is it any good in fog (day or night).
However, having seen aerial shots (they’re all up there with helicopters) the crane doesn’t appear to be at the location specified in the NOTAM. That could turn out to be a story, but I’m not on the ground to check it.
The NOTAM (reproduced above) doesn’t actually give an accurate Lat and Long – it actually puts the crane next to the Kennington Oval. Normally NOTAMs in central London are a lot more precise – a couple more digits of accuracy. This is starting to look like a story, and you saw it here first.