THE pilot of the helicopter which crashed in London today will have helped to save lives in Teesside as the former pilot of the Great North Air Ambulance.
Pete Barnes died when the helicopter he was flying hit a crane on a high building and crashed onto a street, in Vaxuhall, Central London, at around 8am today.
It has since emerged that Mr Barnes worked as a pilot for the charity in the North-East around eight years ago.
As part of his lifesaving work for the Great North Air Ambulance, the pilot, described as being “relaxed and charming” helped to rescue a motorist from a flooded ford in County Durham in 2004.
Mr Barnes is said to have amassed around 9,000 hours of flying time, including flying for blockbuster films such as Die Another Day and Saving Private Ryan.
He has also worked on various TV programmes and adverts as well as flying the traffic and travel helicopter for regional news channels.
After completing his business studies degree, Mr Barnes worked in advertising before starting up as a ski instructor in Europe.
He then moved to the US when he started his training as a helicopter pilot, earning a US commercial and instructor’s licence.
He moved back to the UK and at the time of his death was working as a freelance pilot for RotorMotion, a company with clients including the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister David Cameron, former PM Tony Blair and the Dalai Lama.
On its website RotorMotion describes Mr Barnes, who had worked for them since 1997, as one of the country’s most experienced Agusta pilots and instructors, with clients often requesting him for “both his piloting skills and his relaxed, charming manner”.
The helicopter spun out of control today and crash-landed near Vauxhall station after Mr Barnes attempted to divert the aircraft to a helipad due to bad weather.
The AgustaWestland 109 Power clipped a crane on top of one of Europe’s tallest residential towers, falling from the sky before exploding into flames and crashing into the streets below.