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Transport Aircraft

Volume 645: debated on Monday 2 October 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for Air how many Belfast transport aircraft he expects to have in service in 1964.

I am not prepared to forecast the detailed phasing of deliveries so far ahead.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the considerable disquiet which is felt about the introduction of the Belfast aircraft? Is it not the case that there have been second thoughts and that a larger form of Belfast aircraft is to be introduced in 1965 and 1966?

Bearing in mind that aft present we have no strategic transport aircraft of real efficiency, is this not a serious situation, and will the Secretary of State give it careful consideration?

The hon. Member is once again making a false assumption. It is quite untrue to say that we have no good freighter aircraft. We have some extremely good freighter aircraft, as the Kuwait operation proved the other day.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of his colleagues two or three years ago gave delivery dates which, it is now obvious, will not be fulfilled for various technical reasons? As there may be a gap of at least five years before Britain has this type of heavy aircraft, even with the dumping of supplies in different paints of the Commonwealth, will my right hon. Friend consider the matter to see whether we cannot borrow from the Americans at peppercorn rent suitable aircraft to see us through what must be difficult months and years ahead?

According to my information, there is no aircraft that we could borrow in the time scale that would fill the bill far which the Belfast is required. I should also point out that the Bill for which it is required—that is to say, the freight which it is expected to carry—will also not be in general service for some time. [Interruption.] Although the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) may consider this a cause for jest and laughter, it seems to me that it is an example of good planning, upon which hon. Members opposite so often pride themselves.

Does the Secretary of State claim that it is good planning to have neither the things to carry nor the things with which to carry them?

Good planning is to match the equipment and the aircraft at the appropriate time.


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will state all the types of aircraft available as strategic freighters and the maximum weight and size of equipment each can carry; what are his total requirements for future strategic freighter aircraft; and what steps he is taking to meet these.

The Britannia, which has a door size of about 6ft. by 7ft., will carry 15 tons for 2,000 miles. The Hastings and the Beverley—and in future the Argosy—offer some freighting capability over the same range of between 2 and 4 tons. We shall later on need to be able to move bulkier loads too expensive to stockpile and for these we have ordered the Belfast. As I have said, the Belfast will be in service by the time these requirements arise.

Does the Secretary of State claim that an aircraft that takes freight only through a door is really a freighter? Secondly, while one appreciates the right hon. Gentleman's concern in the distant future to have aircraft to match the equipment then coming forward, would it not be a good idea to have some strategic freighter capacity to move the equipment in the event of its being called upon to be moved within the next five years?

We moved armoured cars to Kuwait. I would have thought that that showed that we had a freighter which worked.