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Sidewinder Missile (Incident)

Volume 115: debated on Tuesday 5 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if, in view of the accidental release of a Sidewinder missile over Lapford, North Devon on 8 April, he will review overflying of populated areas and control of airborne equipment; and if he will make a statement.

Great care is taken in all aspects of military flying to maintain the highest possible standards of flight safety including the secure carriage of practice weapons and equipment. Pilots are fully instructed on the stringent regulations which govern their training activities within the United Kingdom and which specify that military aircraft should not fly at low level directly over major centres of population. It is however impractical for these aircraft to avoid all populated areas during the course of their essential training flights.All safety aspects of flying activity are under continual review and whenever incidents occur, as happened at Lapford on 8 April, an inquiry is invariably held to establish its cause. If appropriate, modifications are made to equipment and operating procedures to prevent recurrences. While I see no need for a general review in the light of the incident on 8 April I will however write to my hon. Friend on the outcome of the unit inquiry as soon as it is available.