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Experts: Vauxhall Tower helicopter collision ‘was preventable’

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The fatal helicopter crash at Broadway Malyan’s Vauxhall Tower construction site might have been avoided if safety concerns raised in a 2005 report had been heeded, experts have warned

The Agusta 109 helicopter which was heading to Battersea heliport hit a crane concealed by thick fog and cloud in January, killing two people

A BBC London report has revealed that a Civil Aviation Authority report eight years ago said that safety could be improved in the controlled airspace around the capital.

However, the CAA has said that no changes were made as a result of the report, which included a finding that the minimum visibility required by helicopter pilots in bad weather may not be great enough.

Antony Evans, a lecturer in air transport at City University London, said several of the proposed changes might have prevented the crash.

He said: ‘The report specifically pulls out a question on visibility, which is how far ahead the pilot must be able to see.

‘The report says this is a cause for concern. That applies specifically to a helicopter operating in these conditions which are exactly the conditions this accident occurred in.’

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch preliminary report shows that at the time of the Vauxhall crash, there was about 4 kilometre visibility at Heathrow - but just 700 metre at London City Airport, much closer to the site of the crash.

A leading helicopter safety consultant, who asked to remain anonymous, said that for the crash to have happened visibility must have been considerably less than 1km.

A CAA spokesman told the BBC: ‘An upcoming change in airspace classification will lead to some rationalisation of the criteria.

‘Forthcoming alignment with European rules could involve changes to the system and this may also include a reduction in the number of different visibility requirements for aircraft operating in London.’

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