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Civil Aviation

Volume 438: debated on Wednesday 4 June 1947

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Prestwick Airport (Landings)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he is aware that a Scottish Airlines Dakota aircraft, carrying 11 passengers, circled Prestwick airport 16 times before landing on Wednesday, 14th May, and that this was primarily due to the development of an oil-leak in the hydraulic pipeline system; if he has made an inquiry into the matter; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. This incident was the result of a mechanical defect, which unfortunately occurred despite the rigid inspections and safety rules to which aircraft are subjected. The circuits of the airfield were necessary, in order that a visual check could be made from the ground to ensure that the undercarriage was safely down before the aircraft landed. I am satisfied that everything possible was done to safeguard both passengers and aircraft; and that all the necessary action was carried out in an exemplary fashion, with the result that the aircraft made a successful landing.

While I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, may I ask if he is fully aware that this danger always exists; and could he say what crash survivability there is in the air frame of the machine to prevent disaster in the event of forced landing in cases like this?

So far as the last part of the question, is concerned, I doubt whether there is any question of crash survivability in the frame of an aircraft. What can be done is to reduce the possibility of accident as far as is possible. In so far as the actual incident is concerned, in this case it was a leak in the hydraulic system and it is one which is likely to occur, but which inspection generally shows up.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary quite satisfied that there was anything wrong with this aircraft; and might it not have been that the pilot, under the influence of certain Scottish Members, circled round 16 times to show the passengers what a wonderful airport Prestwick is?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that before an aeroplane can fly, the engineer has to sign it out as being airworthy, and surely it is a reflection on the engineer that a Question like this should be asked?

Yes, Sir, and this aircraft, of course, had its certificate before it flew. It was a leakage which occurred between the union and the pipe.

Accident Reports


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he has analysed the first six accident reports issued since arrangements were made to make the reports available quickly to the public and listed as B.E.A.C., near Oslo, 7th August, 1946; Scottish Airways, at Northolt, 19th December, 1946; B.S.A.A., at Bathurst, 7th September, 1946; A.A. J.C., at Speke, 16th August, 1946; Scottish Airways, near Renfrew, 27th September, 1946; B.O.A.C., near Stowting, 11th January, 1947; and what action has been taken by his Department or the corporations concerned to eliminate the causes leading to these accidents, as these inquiries have established that in each case the airline organisations themselves were fundamentally responsible for the errors and omissions established in these reports.

Yes, Sir. Reports on accidents naturally receive full and careful consideration as soon as they are received. As regards the second part of the Question, I must not be taken as accepting the implication in the last sentence. In most accidents there are a great many contributory factors, and it is not possible within the limits of a Parliamentary reply to analyse the causes in these six cases or to give details of the action taken by the corporations and Ministry. It is, of course, the regular custom of the corporations and this Ministry immediately after the occurrence of any accident, or, I may add, any incident which might have been dangerous, to make a preliminary inquiry at once and any action which appears necessary to prevent a recurrence is taken without delay. Further action is, of course, taken as may be necessary as soon as the cause is determined.

Does my hon. Friend realise that in these accidents 43 people were killed, apart from those who were injured, and in one case, that of B.S.A.A. at Bathurst, the pilot was found to be inexperienced in the type of aircraft he was flying, having had only 3 hours, 52 minutes in command by day and r hour, 3 minutes by night, and had never done a full load take off in similar conditions? In another case, B.O.A.C. were blamed for bad crewing—

May I ask if any action is intended in view of this very serious state of affairs?

Yes, Sir. My noble Friend took steps soon after he took office to have accident inquiries in public, and to have the reports published. I think it is appreciated in every sphere of the industry that that action enables all concerned—corporations, pilots and everyone—to take notice of the primary and root causes of accident and to take such action as is possible.



asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation the reasons for the delay in bringing into use the Dundee-Perth Aerodrome to meet the need for air transport in that area; and when he hopes to commence a service from and to the area.

I regret that until completion of the review referred to in my reply to the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Peter Freeman) on 7th May last, I cannot make a statement about any particular service.

Does my hon. Friend realise that this is far from satisfactory, because there is a large population in that area, and a most inadequate train service?

Yes, Sir, Scotland is important, and my noble Friend gives very considerable attention to it, but there are other parts of the United Kingdom which equally deserve attention, particularly in relation to the difficulties of the transport system.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Scottish transport system is not developed anything like as much as the English system, and that so far from not requiring great attention, it requires a great deal more attention?

My noble Friend has given me, as an Englishman, the task of helping out Scotland.

Circuit Discipline (Beac Pilots)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, whether he is aware of the slackness of the aerodrome circuit discipline among pilots of B.E.A.C.; and what steps he is taking to have this discipline improved.

No, Sir. Neither the corporations, nor the Ministry, are aware of any such case, and in the absence of details I must repudiate any suggestion that there is slackness in the aerodrome circuit discipline of any of the British European Airways Corporation's pilots. If, however, the hon. Member has any particular instance in mind, perhaps he will give me the details, and I will gladly take the matter up with the corporation.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary assure the House that there is a regular circuit prescribed in accordance with Royal Air Force practice in these matters, and that such circuits are brought to the notice of all air pilots?