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Crash pilot 'was one of the best'

The pilot who died in the dramatic central London helicopter crash worked on Hollywood films and was described as a hero and "one of the best" by former colleagues.

Pete Barnes had more than 10,000 hours flying experience and piloted helicopters in films including 007 movie Die Another Day, Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan and Tomb Raider II.

According to a broadcaster at Metro Radio, where Mr Barnes once flew their "eye in the sky" traffic report helicopter, he could have auditioned to be James Bond.

Alan Robson, who flew with the "handsome" pilot when they worked on a Tyne Tees TV show, said: "He was a stylish, lovely guy. He could have auditioned for James Bond.

"He was handsome, the girls melted. He walked it and he talked it.

"He was a genuinely lovely guy. I am absolutely gutted."

The presenter said Mr Barnes's feats of derring-do made him want to wet himself when he sat alongside him, and said "maybe he was never going to go out quietly".

"Yes, he would do things that looked dramatic but only if he knew it was safe for the people he was carrying," said Robson.

"In a weird kind of way, the kind of person he was, maybe he was never going to go out quietly."

Robson also described him as a "hero" and a "pioneer" for being one of the first to bring helicopter-based traffic reports to the UK.

During his 25 years as a pilot, Mr Barnes also carried out life-saving missions for air ambulances around Britain.

In 2004 he piloted the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAA) in a daring rescue of a motorist from a flooded ford in County Durham.

The paramedic who flew with him on the mission said he was one of the best pilots he had ever flown with.

"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," said Kevin Hodgson, now director of operations at the GNAA.

"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."

Jolyon Palmer, a budding British motor-racing driver, said his life was saved by Mr Barnes after a quad bike accident in 2007 and described his death as "extremely sad news".

UK HEMS, the charitable collaboration of UK helicopter air ambulance services, said Mr Barnes was a "hugely skilled and experienced" pilot - he had 3,500 hours on the type of craft he was piloting today.

At the time of his death, Mr Barnes worked for the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA).

WNAA chief executive Andy Williamson said: "We are deeply saddened to hear the news that Pete Barnes was killed in the helicopter accident in London this morning.

"Pete had worked with us for many years and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family and with all the families affected by this tragedy."

Mr Barnes originally worked as a ski instructor and guide in Europe - as well as being a rep for the Ski Club of Great Britain between 1986 and 1991 - after completing his business studies degree, before going into advertising.

A former colleague described him as "full of life and great fun".

Caroline Stuart Taylor, former Ski Club chief executive said: "This is incredibly sad and shocking news and my heart goes out to his family.

"Pete Barnes was a really lovely person. Full of life and great fun. He was a very strong and enthusiastic skier.

"I first met him in the 1980s, when he was an active Ski Club of Great Britain leader. He became a good friend, skiing every year in the amateur 'Inferno' race in Murren, Switzerland. He will be very much missed by so many people."

He later moved to the United States to train as a helicopter pilot, earning a US commercial and instructors licence flying helicopters around Florida and the east Coast.

He moved back to the UK and at the time of his death was working as a freelance pilot for RotorMotion, a company which counts among its clients 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".

Mr Barnes also set up his own company, Helivision, in 1998, which offers helicopter and jet charters as well as aerial filming and photography and pilot services.

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