HC Deb 15 July 1936 vol 314 cc2030-3

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air, seeing that in the official report into the loss of the Imperial Airways flying boat "City of Khartoum" it is stated that 12 lives were lost and that the chief inspector of accidents reported the cause of the accident to be fuel shortage, that the tankage on this aircraft did not provide an adequate reserve of fuel for this flight, and that loss of life would have been reduced if the company had motor boats suitable for proceeding outside the harbour, whether he proposes to take any action?

32 and 33. Mr. LYONS

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air (1) whether, in view of the findings of the inspector of accidents with reference to the accident to the aircraft "City of Khartoum" on 31st December, 1935, an improved type of reserve fuel tankage has been adopted for similar aircraft on the Empire routes;

(2) whether, in view of the definite finding as to the immediate cause of the accident to the aircraft "City of Khartoum" on 31st December, 1935, being due to loss of engine-power consequent upon exhaustion of fuel supply, the similar machines in the service of Imperial Airways, Limited, have been altered and improved so as to prevent the possibility of any inaccurate indication or the giving of any false reading by the gauge?

34. Captain BALFOUR

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether the same type of aircraft as the "City of Khartoum" is still in use on the Mediterranean air service?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what action he proposes to take as the result of the Inspector of Accidents' report on the flying boat "City of Khartoum"?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air, with reference to the failure in flight of the "City of Khartoum" due to the insufficient tankage capacity for fuel to meet varying conditions of weather and adjustment, what steps he is taking to ascertain that in all the services of the company concerned this weakness is removed in future?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Philip Sassoon)

Two flying boats of the Calcutta type, to which the "City of Khartoum" belonged, are being employed on the Brindisi-Alexandria service; action was at once taken by Imperial Airways, after the accident to the "City of Khartoum," to fit them with additional petrol tankage of 50 gallons' capacity. The provision of this additional tankage removes any question of the adequacy of the fuel supply of these two aircraft when travelling over this route in all weather conditions. It is not possible, owing to peculiarities of construction, to guarantee the absolute accuracy of the petrol gauges used by the Calcuttas, but with the ample margin of petrol given by the additional tankage, this need not for practical purposes be regarded as a source of danger. Carburettor jet settings were at once restored and are now maintained at their normal adjustment. In so far as hon. Members in framing these questions have had in mind the construction of aircraft of other types used or intended to be used on Empire routes, they can, I think, rest assured that every proper precaution is in fact being observed.


Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the desirability of discussing this matter with the Law Officers of the Crown?


Can the right hon. Gentleman answer the point as to the provision of motor boats capable of going outside the harbour in the case of a crash of this kind?


I think the inspector of accidents made it clear that it was not a question of any lack of sea-going craft, but of the fact that the accident, for some reason or other, was not duly observed and reported.

Captain PLUGGE

Arising out of the original reply, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not the fact that the Calcutta type of aircraft at present employed on that service, has a fuel range of approximately seven hours flight and that the flight from Mirabella to Alexandria has never exceeded five hours, since January of this year except on one occasion and then only by four minutes?


Is it the case that the first vessel to leave the harbour was a destroyer; that an hour and a-half had elapsed before she left the harbour and that this destroyer was supposed to have been standing by for emergencies; and will the right hon. Gentleman ask the First Lord of the Admiralty the reason for the delay?


I have said that the reason for the delay was the very unfortunate fact that the accident had not been properly reported to the airport authorities.


Is it not the fact that a mistake was made by the naval authorities, and that it took an hour and a-half for them to receive notification that the aircraft had come down?


Is it not the case that the destroyer left almost immediately on receiving the news?