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Civil Aviation

Volume 155: debated on Monday 19 June 1922

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asked the Secretary of State for Air if his attention has been called to the widespread criticism concerning the inefficiency and inadequacy of the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to civil aviation; and when will he take an opportunity to make a statement to the House on this matter?

I have read a great many articles in the Press on the subject of civil aviation, containing an infinite variety of conflicting criticisms and suggestions, and I welcome this indication of increasing public interest in aeronautical subjects. The policy of the Ministry is, as I stated in my speech introducing the Air Estimates, to concentrate on the maintenance of the Continental air services, both in order to give experience, and as a demonstration of what is now possible in competition with the most intense form of rail and sea transport in operation to-day. It is too soon yet to gauge the success, or otherwise, of the present subsidy scheme, as it has only been in operation a. few weeks, but an opportunity can be taken to discuss the whole subject if the House so desire on the Civil Aviation Vote, which is still on the Paper.

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is aware of the decreasing numbers of passengers carried on the London-Paris and other air routes; and what steps are being taken by the Controller of Civil Aviation to increase the safety and efficiency of these services?

The volume of passenger traffic across the Channel is being carefully watched. Actually, for April and May of this year the numbers carried on the London-Paris route were approximately equal to the numbers for those months last year, but there was a considerable decrease during the first two weeks of June. The British lines are carrying a larger proportion of these passengers than was the case last year. About 50 per cent. more aircraft are being employed on the Continental routes, and on an average each of these aircraft is flying more than twice as much as was the case last year. Consequently, more than three times the seating accommodation is available this as compared with last year for approximately the same traffic. An official air route between London and Paris has been settled in consultation with the French and Belgian authorities. A similar air route to Brussels has been selected this week by our experts, but must be referred to the French and Belgians for concurrence. General rules for flying along these and other official routes are being issued. New rules for taking off and landing at Croydon aerodrome have been drawn up and are now in force. All such regulations will be posted in a prominent position on the aerodrome.Periodic conferences between the Air Ministry officials, representatives of operating firms, and pilots actually flying on the cross-Channel air routes are being arranged for the purpose of discussing measures of safety and means of obtaining reliability of service in the future. By means of these meetings, pilots will also be given instructions regarding the care and use of the latest instruments, and kept up to date in the progress of air navigation. A system is being introduced by which a pilot's licence can be endorsed, suspended or withdrawn for acts of neglect, carelessness or dangerous flying. The work of ground engineers licensed by the Air Council will be more closely supervised than formerly and further qualifications in ability to inspect and maintain instruments will shortly be demanded from them. Operating firms are being requested to report fully on all cases of engine failure and engine trouble, and each case will be investigated by experts with a view to eliminating the causes. More stringent rules regarding the use of radio-telephony by pilots are being introduced with the objects of providing more rapid information of weather conditions along the route and of preventing interference between aircraft. A fixed time- table for aircraft flying along the route is being drawn up in order that pilots may know approximately what aircraft are flying near them at any given time. The question as to whether the provision of an assistant pilot should be made compulsory is under consideration. It is a complicated question, and cannot be decided hastily; meanwhile, the carriage of passengers seated beside the pilot has been forbidden.