It seems so from media reports, says Jim Nicolson, consultant to and former chairman of The Vauxhall Society in a letter to Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey.
On 16 January, pedestrian Matthew Wood died as a helicopter struck the St George Tower, Vauxhall, killing the experienced pilot Peter Barnes.
The helicoper, Jim points out, was flying from Redhill to Elstree. How did an skilled pilot like Mr Barnes get miles offroute and over heavily-populated central London unless directed by air traffic controllers?
Jim Nicolson’s letter to Kate Hoey MP:
‘Whilst we are all naturally concerned at the disruption caused to local movement, and in particular at the unfortunate death of an experienced helicopter pilot, it is important to look carefully into the possible causes of this recent accident with a view to avoid any possibility of the re-occurrence of such a situation.
From press reports it would appear that the intended route of the helicopter concerned was from Redhill to Elstree – if a direct line had been flown this route would have crossed the Thames between Roehampton and Chiswick, around six miles west of Vauxhall and an area where there are large open spaces and few tall buildings. If, as has been suggested, a diversion had been made to Battersea heliport, this would have brought it a little further downstream but still nearly three miles west of Vauxhall. The intended route may of course have been mis-reported or, perhaps, adjusted to avoid interference with air traffic into Heathrow, but this should certainly be looked into.
If our information is correct it would appear that helicopter traffic is being directed over central London even if the shortest route would avoid such heavily built-up areas. There is of course a considerable volume of helicopter traffic which has to use Central London, including ambulances and police, but where possible flights which do not need to be in Central London should be discouraged.’
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