Captain Pete Barnes, an air ambulance pilot with over 12,000 hours of flying time, was flying a helicopter over London today in bad weather conditions, when his aircraft tragically collided with a cloud-shrouded crane on top of one of Europe’s highest residential buildings and lost control.
At this time, it is believed that the helicopter was on a commercial flight from Surrey to Elstree when Captain Barnes attempted to divert to a helipad in London due to the bad weather. The crane was completely obscured by clouds at the time of the crash.
Eighty-eight firefighters responded to the chaotic scene. A police spokesman declared it “something of a miracle” that the crash, which occurred in central London, was not “many, many times worse.”
During his 18-year flight career, Captain Barnes flew helicopters in action scenes in major motion pictures, including Die Another Day, Tomb Raider II, and Saving Private Ryan.
He was a professional air ambulance pilot who had flown numerous life-saving missions for air ambulances across Britain including the GNAAS (Great North Air Ambulance Service).
He flew a bold rescue mission to rescue a motorist from river floods in 2004; according to ITV, the paramedic who flew with him on that daring mission declared he was one of the best pilots he had ever flown with. Afterwards, he was presented with an award for outstanding courage and skill during the dramatic rescue.
Prior to piloting air ambulances in Britain, he had trained and flown helicopters in the United States, in Florida and along the East Coast.
Before receiving his commercial helicopter pilot’s and flight instructor’s license, the multi-talented Barnes had been a ski instructor and worked in the advertising industry.
Kevin Hodgson, Director of Operations at GNAAS, who worked alongside Captain Barnes for years, said “Pete was as good a guy as you can imagine and one of the best pilots I’ve ever had the pleasure of flying with. Over the years he will have flown on dozens of missions, no doubt saving lives along the way. Everyone at the charity is deeply saddened at this news. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the tragedy.”
British TV presenter and pilot Mike Smith tweeted “Pete Barnes. Air ambulance, filming, immense pilot. Enjoyed our teas & chats. Rest not in peace, but fly with your new wings.”
We would like to pay tribute to Captain Barnes, and extend our gratitude for his many years of service, during which he helped saved the lives of many. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy during this sad time.