Why Aren’t There More Helicopter Crashes In London?

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This is the St George Wharf Tower- the enormous residential block, that is nearly completed — in Vauxhall. Now, the start of 2013 a helicopter crashed into the crane, that was building this… building. And, well… It was the first fatal helicopter crash in London, since records began. But the reason those are so rare, is because there is a massive safety precaution in London: Helicopters must follow the river. And there are two reasons for that: One, is that the London City Airport flight path ends at London City Airport, about 8 miles that way. In fact, you can see a plane coming in now. That way air traffic control now that over the river there might be helicopters, but without special permission: without a police helicopter, an air ambulance, or someone who’s filed a filming permit months in advance there… Okay, it is windy up here, and that is a long way town. Without special permission, air traffic control know that there won’t be helicopters in the way of the planes. But the second reason is more important, and that is: if a helicopter suffers an engine failure , most pilots– most qualified pilots– will be able to put the helicopter down safely, because helicopters can do something called “autorotation”– they can powered by the air going through the blades as they fall– and make a safe landing. But where’s a safe landing spot in a city this big? You’re probably going to hit a building or a person, no matter where you come down, unless you are flying over the river and following its path, in which case, if your engine suddenly fails you’re going to be fine. A bit wet, but fine, unless of course, someone puts an enormous building in the way and it’s foggy. And that is something you’ve might not have known! And I’m getting down from here now. Seriously, that’s a really long way down! [Translating these subtitles? Add your name here!] Subtitles by: MM


  1. Just a small correction, single engine helicopters are restricted to flying over the thames. Dual engine helicopters (Which are used by Police, Air Ambulance, and other operators) are not restricted to this route as they are able to fly on the remaining engine (with reduced performance).

  2. I remember being told by a helicopter pilot that you can't actually fly a single-engine helicopter over the main part of a city (for obvious reasons), but you can fly a twin-engine one, as if one engine fails, the other can keep the helicopter flying.

  3. Interesting point would have been: how many emergency landings on the river have happened so far. That would bei a thing I certainly didnt know.

  4. That's what happened in Glasgow the heli was over the city engine failed and they tried to get it in the river but were short and hit the pub

  5. hold on a second, that aeroplane is not from/to London city airport. It has 4 engines and its probably a A340 and it is too heavy for LCY

  6. Please do not risk your life like that. A video is not worth your life. It is like taking a dangerous selfie. Pointless.

  7. Interesting idea, but surely not every helicopter wants to go somewhere on the river; they have to leave it at some point. I see helicopters all over London all the time.

  8. Not really accurate. Certain types of twin engine helicopters can fly where they like because they have redundancy… And there are a number of helicopter routes through London (How do you get to the Thames from Redhill Aerodrome in surrey?) When I started out I was able to fly through London (known as the London Heli Lanes) but not over the Thames as my heli didnt have floats. You can survive for a remarkably short amount of time in cold water and thats if you manage to get out. Id prefer to land in a narrow street than in the Thames without floats. Ironically, that pilot flew out of Redhill, (I knew of him before hand) likely spent most of his trip not over the thames.

  9. The building is on land so wasn't in the flight path of the helicopter which should've been over the river. There was fog that morning so the reason for the crash was that the pilot flew under pressure from his client & couldn't see the river accurately enough.

  10. Seen some very interesting helicopters flying along the Thames when I lived and worked there. Quite often they have to hold over Greenwich to allow for LCY traffic. Best time was during the Olympics when Lynx helicopters were based on HMS Ocean, when returning to the ship they had to fly low to get underneath cables strung across the Thames for a moving camera.

  11. My god if that 747 was flying into London City there would be something VERY wrong. London city mostly flies A318s to new york

  12. Fun fact your safer in a flying helicopter that runs out of gas than you are in a flying plane out of gas because of autorotation

  13. You're missing something very important: London only has one heliport, so there are really very few helicopters in London to begin with. How many have had to ditch into the Thames?

  14. Whatever that plane was you saw, it was most certainly not one that could use London City airport as it was far too large. Most probably it was destined for Heathrow.

  15. If you are in a helicopter landing in the water is a terrible idea, slowly drowning to death while strapped into a helicopter is a terrible way to go. Just look at what happened in NYC recently

  16. Finally a video title which truly represents a question I've constantly asked myself during my entire lifetime.

  17. That was unimpressively and unnecessarily risky. There are times to take risks, whether for entertainment or demonstration, this was not one of them.

  18. "I can see a plane coming in now"….points camera to a 747. I'd love to see a 747 attempt the 9 degree glide slope into London city and then land.

  19. 0:33 – Tom, are you suggesting that Boeing 747 is heading to/from London city airport?

    SPOILER: It's not.

  20. 0:35 is not an LCY flight: It's a BA 747 on its way to or from Heathrow. About 5x bigger than the largest LCY-cleared jets.

  21. Just spent a few days in London, and wow, never seen so many helicopters in so little time. And as you say, all of them following the riven, even a huge one! I still don't know what it was for, probably military (it was very huge, at least like a bus)
    Edit: Did my research, it was a Merlin helicopter, RAF

  22. Not long ago in NYC there was a tourist flight crash into the river where one of the inflatable emergency floats failed, allowing the helicopter to flip inverted into the water and the passengers, secured against falling out, were trapped and all drowned, though the pilot escaped just fine.

  23. I don’t think this is true. The Thames runs west to east across the city and Helicopters will generally want to cross between north and south. Only following the river would put them in conflict with London city and Heathrow airport. The reason helicopters don’t fly into buildings is because the pilot looks out the window, if it’s foggy, they shouldn’t fly.

  24. A whole load of inaccuracies in this presentation from the London City bound 747!!! To the helicopter that has an engine failure, a bit of an assumption that helicopters only have 1 engine!!! I cannot take any of your “Did you know” information for sound advice. Poor research Tom.

  25. Umm, not sure this is entirely correct. Helicopters frequently fly near to my home in North West London (NW2). I'm told there are a limited number of flight paths for helicopters crossing London. So maybe the more correct statement is that they cannot fully over CENTRAL London, or something like that???

  26. I can think of a couple reasons why you still might have more trouble than just being wet after landing on the river with a helicopter

  27. A bit wet but fine? My friend and her partner died when their helicopter crashed in the hudson.. so I would say the statement is optimistic… Drowning and hypothermia are real risks.. but having said that it is the lesser evil compared to crashing into a building..

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