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Aviation

Volume 244: debated on Wednesday 12 November 1930

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Trans-Atlantic Plight ("Miss Columbia")

34.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that a Royal Air Force flying boat proceeded from Mount Batten to the Scilly Isles for the purpose of transporting petrol to the aeroplane "Miss Columbia" on its recent trans-Atlantic flight; and if he will state the cost of this voyage?

Yes, Sir, petrol was supplied to this American0 aeroplane, as stated in the question, and the cost has since been refunded to the Air Ministry. No special expenditure was incurred as the flying boat was, in any case, due for a navigational exercise that day, and the opportunity was taken to carry out some photographic work at Penzance and the Scilly Islands, an occasion for which was already being awaited.

Light Aeroplane Clubs

35.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he can give particulars of the number of members of light aeroplane clubs who have obtained "A" licences during the 12 months ended to the last convenient date, stating the names of the clubs to which these members belong?

The number of new "A" pilot's licences issued to members of subsidised light aeroplane clubs during the year ended 31st July, 1930, was 441. With my hon. Friend's permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table giving the names of the clubs and the numbers of new licences issued to the members of each club.

Does the table also show the number of light aeroplane clubs that commenced operations during the same period?

Following is the table:

Club.Number of Licences issued.
Bristol and Wessex20
Cinque Ports38
Hampshire44
Lancashire26
Liverpool and District23
London47
Midland28
Newcastle33
Norfolk and Norwich15
Northamptonshire7
Nottingham3
Scottish21
Suffolk and Eastern Counties12
Yorkshire17
Clubs affiliated to National Flying Services, Limited107
Total441

Flying Regulations (Crowded Areas)

37.

asked the Under Secretary of State for Air whether he contemplates issuing instructions to prevent loss of life by stopping aircraft flying over crowded areas except in cases of necessity

The regulations governing civil and service flying now in force contain provisions, the object of which is to prevent danger to life in populated areas. It is forbidden, for instance, to fly over a city or town except at a height which will enable the aircraft to land outside the city or town in the event of mechanical breakdown or other cause, subject to this proviso, that the prohibition is not to apply to any area comprised within a circle with a radius of one mile from the centre of a licensed aerodrome, of a Royal Air Force aerodrome or of an aerodrome under the control of the Secretary of State. It is also forbidden to carry out any trick or exhibition flying over a populated area or, in general, to fly in such a way as to cause unnecessary danger to persons on the ground. Power has also been taken to impose such restrictions as are considered expedient in the interest of public safety upon flying over large gatherings of people in special circumstances. My Noble Friend does not think that further instructions such as those suggested by my hon. Friend are necessary or practicable.

Contractors (Financial Stability)

38.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that several companies and firms which have supplied material, specified to be manufactured by them in Air Ministry contracts, to a heating engineering firm now in liquidation, have been unable to receive payment for goods so supplied; whether the Air Ministry takes any steps to ascertain the financial stability of firms with which it makes contracts; and whether the Ministry intends to do anything to meet the accounts of such sub-contractors?

Yes, Sir, I am aware of the case to which, I think, the hon. and gallant Member is referring. The answer to the second part of this question is in the affirmative, but to the last part in the negative. Inquiries were made when the firm in question was placed on the Air Ministry list, but it would be impossible for the Air Ministry to guarantee the solvency of contractors in relation to the various sub-contractors with whom they may have dealings.

If there is still money unpaid by the Air Ministry, will it be paid over to the sub-contractors and not direct to the contracting firm?

Does not the fact that a firm is contracting for the British Government naturally lead the sub-contractors to believe that it is solvent?

Accidents (Investigation)

41.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he will consider the desirability of ordering that all inquiries into accidents to aircraft shall be held in public; that all relevant evidence shall be made public; and that a full description of the machine shall in each case be given where, as a result of the inquiry, the cause or probable cause of the accident is determined?

My Noble Friend has the whole question of the investigation of aircraft accidents under his immediate consideration, but he is not at present able to make any announcement on the subject.

Sea-Going Aeroplanes

39 and 40.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air (1) whether, in view of the fact that at the naval demonstration on 1st of November an all-metal machine which was compelled to make a false landing on the sea sank immediately after touching the water, that an all-metal non-buoyant type of machine is the only one used at sea by this country for long-ranging reconnaissance flights up to 100 miles from the parent ship, and that such machines have never been known to remain afloat for more than three minutes, he will consider the resumption for use in such long distance flights of machines with a wooden fuselage and air bags in the tail which have a buoyancy of two or three hours in fair weather;

(2) whether a rubber raft, which requires time for detachment and inflation, such as is furnished to all-metal machines, has been subjected to practical tests as a life-saving device in non-buoyant aircraft at sea; and, if so, with what results?

A life-saving collapsible dinghy, which can be very rapidly inflated by mechanical means, has recently been subjected to practical tests with satisfactory results, and will be carried by all sea-going aeroplanes which are large enough to be so equipped. I am advised that the re-introduction of wooden construction would be a some- what retrograde step; but action is being taken to improve the buoyancy of all aircraft operating from aircraft carriers, and all-metal sea-going aircraft, at least up to the standard—two or three hours' buoyancy—mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman.

Is it not a fact that, owing to the introduction of the all-metal aeroplane, it was necessary to restrict the distance an aeroplane could fly from its carrier very considerably, and, in view of that, will the hon. Gentleman consider, at least temporarily, the reintroduction of a portion of the old type aeroplane?

I think the answer to the latter part of the question is in the negative. So far as the first part is concerned, the whole question is a matter of experiment and consideration, and everything is being done on the lines of the answer to the original question.

Airworthiness (Flutter)

42.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what types of aircraft have been condemned or excluded from further use in Service flying, or on which pilots have made adverse reports, on account of wing-flutter or otherwise; and whether any machines of such types are still in use for Service flying and are permitted to be used in civilian flying services?

Cases of wing, aileron, or tail flutter have been reported in different types of aircraft, mostly experimental, from time to time. If such flutter has proved to be incurable the type has not been adopted for Service or civil use. One obsolescent type of Service aircraft which is potentially liable to flutter at extreme speeds is permitted to be flown only at speeds at which flutter does not in fact occur. No flutter is known to occur in any aircraft now holding a British certificate of airworthiness.