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'Lovely guy, he could have auditioned for James Bond'.

THE pilot who died in yesterday's 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, pictured, had about 9,000 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' 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.

Robson also described him as a "hero" and a "pioneer" for being one of the first to bring helicopterbased 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.

"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 Great North Air Ambulance.

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

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. He later moved to the United States to train as a helicopter pilot, earning a US commercial and instructor's 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 Rotor-Motion.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 17, 2013
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