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Civil Aviation

Volume 480: debated on Wednesday 8 November 1950

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Fog Dispersal

39 and 40.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (1) when he will be in a position to make a statement following the reconsideration of the general question of Fog Investigation Dispersal Operations aid for landing in fog;

(2) whether he can give any information about the experiments being conducted into the possibilities of finding a cheaper form of Fog Investigation Dispersal Operations.

Experiments so far carried out indicate that an efficient and less expensive fog dispersal system, using fuel oil delivered at high pressure, is almost certainly a technical possibility. Final checking of the experiment is now in hand, and when this is complete, it will be possible to consider whether there is justification for a full scale installation, having regard to the estimated capital cost of about £250,000. In the meantime, my Department is getting the views of airline operators on the use of F.I.D.O. as an alternative to the existing practice of weather diversion.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that something in the neighbourhood of £600,000 has already been spent at Heathrow on the installation of a form of F.I.D.O.? Can he say whether it would not be possible to adapt the existing apparatus to use the new oil-burning one at very much less cost?

I do not know where the hon. Member gets his figures from, but I will have it checked up if he will give me the details. It is not a fact that a system was installed at London Airport.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the experiments which were necessary for the development of the F.I.D.O. system during the war were planned most carefully so that the maximum number of operational units could be ready for the fogs of the autumn? Can he explain how it is that, after two years of investigation and experiment by his Department, they have been overtaken by the autumn fog season without reaching a decision?

The right hon. Gentleman is completely wrong about his facts. In the first place, experiments were not carried out by my Department, but by the Ministry of Supply. In the second place, I checked up on the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman last week, that this new system of fog dispersal was being tried out towards the end of the last war, and I found that not to be the fact. It is only comparatively recently that this new system has been developed.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that he completely misunderstood my statement last week, which was to the effect that experiments on a cheaper form of F.I.D.O. were in full swing? That is correct, because I was responsible for them. Is he further aware that the new system, which is a cheaper form depending on high-pressure burners and giving instantaneous light, was a further development we had in mind then, which he has had a long time for development? Is he aware that the experts who investigated this scheme have not been consulted by the Government in the last two years?

This question of generating hot air is rather more complicated at airports than in other places. It is not a fact that the present system we are now discussing, and the installation of which we are now contemplating, was known at the end of the war. Experiments have only recently been concluded.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether Fog Investigation Dispersal Operations is available at Blackbushe airfield.

No, Sir, and I am sorry that in my answer to a supplementary question on 1st November I gave the impression that it was. In fact, the F.I.D.O. facilities which I indicated were available are confined to Manston.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say how long it takes to turn on the apparatus at Manston? Can it be done very quickly, and, if so, why is it that the aircraft which crashed the other day did not land on F.I.D.O. at Manston?

It would be wrong for me to give any explanation or theory about this accident. As to the time taken to warm up, I think it is in the order of 15 minutes; it is possible to land towards the end of that time.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary say why the apparatus at Blackbushe has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent in the last few years that it is now unserviceable?

It is not a question of unserviceability because of deterioration, but that the installation at Manston was considered sufficient. During the time that the installation at Blackbushe was available, some 15 months, it was used only once, and that was for a take-off and not for a landing.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary definitely say that the apparatus at Manston is kept fully manned, and that it can be out into operation in 15 minutes?

The apparatus at Manston is an Air Ministry apparatus, although it is available equally for civil and military aircraft. I understand that the answer is "yes," as I have checked up on that point, but if the hon. Gentle, man has any reason to believe otherwise, I shall be very glad to go into the matter once again.

Safety Regulations (Belts)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he is satisfied that the regulations which require passengers to fasten seat belts before landing are conducive to the safety of passengers; and if he will further investigation into the matter.

The weight of evidence shows that this regulation is conducive to the safety of passengers. I do not consider that a special investigation into this particular regulation is necessary, but the evidence of recent accidents, as in all previous cases, will be very carefully examined in relation to this question of passenger safety.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that in several recent air crashes none of the passengers who was fastened by a safety belt survived, whereas some members of the crew who were not fastened in by a safety belt were thrown clear, and escaped with their lives?

I know that publicity has been given to that, but there are other factors involved, and it would be wrong to draw the conclusion which my hon. Friend obviously draws.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that it would add to the safety of passengers if instead of the seating arrangements compelling them to sit facing the pilot's cabin, passengers sat with their backs towards it?

Comet Air Liners

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation why Comet air liners are not used in the route from New York to the West Indies.

The Comet air liner is still undergoing trials and is not yet ready for service on any route.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that if British jet aeroplanes are made available to American passengers there will be a great demand by Americans to travel on them, and great pressure by Americans on their own internal air lines to buy British aeroplanes, which will be a great help to the British aircraft industry?

I agree with what my hon. Friend says, but I think it is irrelevant to the Question which he asked.