Friday, March 14, 2014
9:35 AM

All four people who were involved in last night’s helicopter crash, on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, which claimed the life of Northern Ireland peer Lord Ballyedmond, were male, it has been confirmed.

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Police at a cordon on the A146.Police at a cordon on the A146.

During a press conference near the scene, police also confirmed that the helicopter involved was an AgustaWestland AW139, but exactly what journey was involved is still to be determined.

What will emerge from the investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) team will be the type of flying qualification held by the pilot.

Many helicopter pilots are permitted to fly only in good-visibility conditions during the day, with others being permitted to fly at night in good conditions.

Some pilots are qualified to fly using visual-aid instruments so that they are able to take to the skies when there is cloud, or poor visibility.

Police at a cordon on the A146 after four people have died when a helicopter came down in thick fog in a field in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk, at 7.30pm yesterday.Police at a cordon on the A146 after four people have died when a helicopter came down in thick fog in a field in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk, at 7.30pm yesterday.

When “flying on instruments”, pilots are provided with an artificial horizon so they can keep their aircraft level. They can also make use of compass readings.

David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flight Global, said: “Helicopter flying is usually done under clear-visual conditions. Helicopters are much more difficult to fly than aeroplanes and much more difficult to fly on instruments than planes.

“You have to be particularly careful if fog is around. It’s a hell of a hazard.”

The AAIB will also want to know if there was any communication from the helicopter before or during the flight.

An AgustaWestland helicopter in flightAn AgustaWestland helicopter in flight

If the helicopter had taken off from a private helipad in good conditions, then the pilot would not have needed any permission to get airborne.

Mr Learmount said the Norfolk accident had echoes of the helicopter crash in south London last year when experienced pilot Pete Barnes, 50, was killed when his aircraft clipped a high-rise crane in Vauxhall.

Pedestrian Matthew Wood, 39, was also killed as he walked to work.

A report by the AAIB revealed the client had suggested to the pilot that he should postpone the journey because of poor visibility.

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