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Gatwick Airport

Volume 654: debated on Monday 19 February 1962

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asked the Minister of Aviation What steps he is taking to prevent low-flying approaches to Gatwick Airport, particularly from westwards; and if he will make a statement.

Instructions have been issued to all operators at Gatwick that they should adhere strictly to the correct descent path. They have also been warned that approaches will be monitored when operational conditions permit. Monitoring results since my predecessor last wrote to the hon. Member on this matter have confirmed once again that pilots are most conscientious in approaching no lower than necessary, and that significantly low aproaches are extremely rare.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but would not he agree that this improvement is due largely to the time of year? There is a great local fear that when the spring and summer schedules start once again this risk of low flying will increase. If monitoring is not enough, would my hon. Friend consider putting observers on the ground?

In our view, monitoring is likely to be much more efficient than putting observers on the ground. I have no reason to think that it will be more difficult for pilots to maintain the proper altitude at times of the year other than winter.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the monitoring will be carried out on the eastward side and the other sides as well? Also, can he say whether the proposed diversion of jet flights to Gatwick will make any difference?

The diversion of jet flights will obviously make a difference to the number of aircraft approaching to land, but the regulations governing the angle of descent will be exactly the same. It is our intention to monitor approaches from both directions.

There are only a few culprits in this matter. The vast majority of pilots do their level best to observe the regulations. However, will my hon. Friend make a special effort to catch the small number of culprits who bring the whole of aviation into disrepute?

I am glad that my hon. Friend has drawn attention to the fact that there are very few infringements. In fact, 283 approaches have been monitored since last June, and only ten of them were below the normal limit. Since September, when my predecessor wrote about this matter, only one low approach had been noted.