HC Deb 06 March 1924 vol 170 cc1602-4
74. Captain BERKELEY

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air, whether he will make a statement accounting for the frequency of accidents at Royal Air Force training schools; whether he is satisfied that all possible precautions against accidents due to inexperience are taken at these training schools; whether the accident at Duxford on Monday was due to a collision in the air; whether there are regulations in force governing the simultaneous landing of aeroplanes; if so, whether these regulations were complied with in this case; whether his attention has been directed to the fact that the machine at the Biggin Hill accident was trick-flying in connection with films being prepared for the Empire Exhibition at Wembley; and, if so, by whose authority Air Force pilots are required or permitted to expose themselves to additional risks for purposes connected with a commercial enterprise?


As the answer is somewhat long, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

The answer to the first part of the question is that accidents at Royal Air Force training schools are not unduly frequent. The number of fatal accidents per hours flown is decreasing, and it is confidently anticipated that it will continue to decrease. The answer to the second and third parts of the question is in the affirmative.

The answer to the fourth part of the question is that such regulations are contained in Air Ministry Weekly Orders. In addition to this, each unit has standing orders drawn up to suit the conditions of its aerodrome. The regulations state that the commanding officer of a unit will satisfy himself that all pilots are acquainted with the regulations in orders and instructions relating to flying, and also that every local or temporary order relating to flying is to be conspicuously posted up in every shed from which flying takes place. I cannot answer the fifth part of the question until the investigation which is at present in progress has been completed.

The answer to the sixth part of the question is that part of the training of all fighting and bombing pilots consists in perfecting themselves in the manœuvres of air fighting. This is not stunting, as suggested in the question. It is the ordinary, everyday training of a war pilot, without which he would be useless in war. On the occasion of the flight during which Flying Officer Smith was killed, he had been practising the manœuvres of an air fight between a single-seater fighting aeroplane and a night bomber. A film operator had been taken up in another aeroplane in order to take a film of this practice for exhibition at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, in order to show the training carried out in the Royal Air Force. In view of this the last part of the question does not arise.