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Flying Exercises, Port Phillip Bay (Accidents)

Volume 441: debated on Wednesday 30 July 1947

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will make a statement on the casualties sustained during the recent exercises of the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia.

The series of accidents to which my hon. Friend refers occurred on 20th July during the course of flying practices carried out by the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, in preparation for subsequent exercises with ships of the Royal Australian Navy. In the first of these a Firefly strike fighter from H.M.S. "Theseus," collided with another Firefly in the same formation and both crashed into the sea locked together. It appears that the aircraft failed to see each other, one pulling slowly up into the other from below. The body of one of the pilots was recovered but the other pilot, together with an observer and a telegraphist air gunner are missing and they too must be presumed to have lost their lives. Shortly after this accident, a Seafire fighter also from H.M.S. "Theseus," in the final approach to land on, drifted and ran up the extreme port edge of the flight deck before entering the safety barrier, striking and killing a rating of the aircraft handling party who was in the walkway. The third accident occurred on board H.M.S. "Glorv" when a Seafire fighter, on landing, bounced and failed to catch the arrester wires, cleared the safety barriers and crashed into the deck part at the forward end of the flight deck, resulting in the death of an air mechanic and slight injuries to another rating. Boards of inquiry into the causes of these accidents have been convened. I would wish to take this opportunity to express the deep sympathy of the Board of Admiralty with the relatives of those who lost their lives in these accidents.

In view of the high ratio of accidents on this particular day, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is completely satisfied that the postwar training of the Naval Air Arm is satisfactory or adequate for its present task?

I am quite satisfied as to that. The process of landing on and taking off from an aircraft carrier is of necessity a hazardous one, and one must expect that, from time to time, there will be accidents. Everything possible is done to prevent accidents. As regards this particular accident, a court of inquiry is inquiring into the cause, and will report in due course.