HC Deb 02 February 1948 vol 446 cc1472-4
Air-Commodore Harvey

(by Private Notice) asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will make a statement regarding the missing Tudor aircraft of British South American Airways Corporation.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. Lindgren)

I regret to inform the House of the loss of the British South American Airways Corporation's Tudor IV aircraft G—AHNP on a flight from the Azores to Bermuda on the morning of Friday last, 30th January. The machine carried 25 passengers and 6 crew.

I am sure I am expressing the feelings of the whole House when, on behalf of my noble Friend and myself, I extend profound sympathy to the families of the passengers and crew of the aircraft.

A preliminary investigation has already begun, and an Inspector of Accidents left for the Azores immediately. A Public Inquiry will be held into the loss of this aircraft. My noble Friend is seeking the technical advice of the Air Registration Board in the light of such information as may he available. Meanwhile, the Tudor IV aircraft will not be used for the scheduled service due to leave along this route tomorrow.

Air-Commodore Harvey

In joining the Minister in his message of sympathy, and not wishing to detract anything from the possible merits of this aircraft, may I ask him two questions? The first is, were or were not proving flights carried out on the route before passengers were carried? Secondly, has he satisfied himself that the aircraft carried sufficient fuel in case of emergency to reach another base?

Mr. Lindgren

I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member will agree that those are two questions vital to an inquiry, and I think it would be wrong for me to give an expression of opinion—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—pending that inquiry taking place.

Mr. George Ward

Can the Minister say whether all hope has now been abandoned of finding this aircraft?

Mr. Lindgren

I am afraid that hope Ls very slight indeed. I would like to express appreciation of the willing help given by everyone to try and trace what can be traced of the aircraft.

Mr. Gammans

But surely the Minister can answer that first supplementary question—had proving flights taken place over that route or not?

Mr. Lindgren

Those, surely, are questions for the inquiry.

Hon. Members


Commander Noble

But could not the Minister answer the second supplementary question from my hon. and gallant Friend?

Mr. Teeling

Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that no further flights in the same type of aircraft will take place until something—

Hon. Members

He has said so.

Mr. Lindgren

I have already indicated that, pending the advice of the Air Registration Board, the aircraft due to fly tomorrow has been withdrawn from service.

Mr. Erroll

But can the Minister say how the question of proving flights having been carried out, or not, can affect an inquiry into an individual accident?

Mr. Lindgren

A contributory cause of an accident may be insufficient crew training and it may be that the aircraft was not sufficiently tried before being put into service. Answers to such questions as the hon. and gallant Member put would give some indication of an expression of opinion—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and that surely, is a matter for an inquiry—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and an establishment of fact.

Brigadier Head

Would the Minister say if it is the policy of the Ministry to open up airlines without carrying out proving flights?

Mr. Lindgren

The Ministry does not run scheduled services. The running of scheduled services has, by Parliament, been delegated under the Civil Aviation Act to the three Corporations responsible. The general standard of training and the aircraft flown are matters for the Boards of those Corporations.

Mr. De la Bère

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that there are 20 Questions down for the Minister of Agriculture, and none of them have been reached, would it be possible to give a tiny extension of time in view of the great importance of agriculture?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid not. The Clerk will now proceed to read the Orders of the Day.