§ Sir GEORGE PENNY
(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if, in view of the distressing calamity which occurred yesterday resulting in the death of six people, he will tell the House what control the Air Ministry exercises over passenger-carrying aircraft, whether such machines are subject to periodical inspection to ascertain if they are airworthy, how often such inspections are made and if he is satisfied that the regulations are carried out in such a manner as to reduce the risk of accidents to a minimum?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Mr. Montague)
It is difficult, within the compass of a Parliamentary reply, to summarise the very elaborate and stringent regulations prescribed by the Air Ministry in order to ensure the safety of the passengers and crew of aircraft plying for public service, such as that to which yesterday's most regrettable accident occurred. I may, however, say briefly that the Air Ministry requires such aircraft to be inspected by a competent ground engineer—that is to say, a ground engineer licensed by the Air Ministry after full investigation of his experience and qualifications—within 24 hours of each flight being undertaken.
1942 Following on this inspection the ground engineer is required to furnish a certificate in writing that the aircraft is safe for flight. The inspection covers not only the machine, but also the engine or engines and instruments. In addition, before the flight actually commences, the pilot or person in charge of the aircraft has to satisfy himself that various requirements have been met, and in particular that the loading of the aircraft is such as to ensure safety in flight; to assist him an actual load sheet has to be completed containing certain prescribed particulars.
While I am naturally not in a position to make any definite statement in regard to the machine to which the accident occurred yesterday, until the investigation of the Air Ministry's Inspector of Accidents is complete, I may say that I am in general satisfied that the regulations are most strictly complied with, and that everything possible is done by those responsible for the operation of air services to reduce the risk of accidents to a minimum. The remarkably few accidents which have occurred to British aircraft employed on regular air services of recent years is in itself a striking testimony to this fact.
I should like to take this opportunity of conveying to the relatives of those who have lost their lives an expression of my Noble Friend's and my own most profound sympathy with them in their bereavement, with which I am sure the House as a whole will wish to be associated.
§ Rear-Admiral SUETER
Can the Under-Secretary of State say whether this was a British-built machine?
§ Dr. HASTINGS
Are any regulations issued as to the length of the inspection by the ground engineer?
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I have already said that it is impossible within the limits of a Parliamentary reply to state the whole of the case, but I shall be pleased to give the hon. Member the actual regulations if he wishes to have them.
§ Colonel Sir VANSITTART BOWATER
Can the Under-Secretary say whether these regulations pertain to an airship leaving foreign places?
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
They are the regulations of the British Air Ministry. Obviously, we cannot control flights from other countries.