HC Deb 30 April 1951 vol 487 cc822-4
10 and 11. Mr. P. B. Lucas

asked the Minister of Supply (1) whether the Hawker P.1081 experimental aircraft in which Squadron Leader Trevor Wade lost his life was equipped with a Martin-Baker ejection seat, or what make of seat was fitted;

(2) whether the Martin-Baker ejection seat will in future become a standard fitment in all single-seat, high-speed experimental aircraft; and whether he will issue instructions for all such existing aircraft at present equipped with ejection seats of another make to be modified at once to take those of Martin-Baker design.

15. Mr. Geoffrey Cooper

asked the Minister of Supply what type of ejector pilot seat was used by the pilot when the Hawker P.1081 aircraft exploded and killed the pilot.

17. Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Minister of Supply what type of ejection seat was used in the Hawker P.1081 experimental aircraft in which Squadron Leader Trevor Wade lost his life; whether this type of seat is standard equipment in Service aircraft; and how many live drops have been completed with this type of seat.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

The experimental Hawker P.1081 aircraft was fitted with an ejector seat made by M.L. Aviation Ltd., and preliminary indications are that the seat functioned properly. Two makes of ejector seat, this and the one made by Martin-Baker Ltd., have been approved for use in Service aircraft and it would be undesirable to have a monopoly of either of them. Live test ejections from aircraft are not called for by my Department and I am not aware of any having been made with the M.L. seat. I cannot accept the statement in Question No. 15 that the aircraft exploded.

Mr. Lucas

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the same measure of safety is afforded by the M.L. seat as is afforded by the Martin-Baker seat, in view of the fact that no live drops have been effected by the M.L. seat?

Mr. Strauss

No live drop is called for before the device is accepted. I have no reason at the moment to doubt that the M.L. ejector is as good as the other one.

Mr. Cooper

Has my right hon. Friend any evidence to show that the seat which, as I understand it, was fitted in this aircraft, which had not proved itself by a live drop, has been given any preference by the officials of his Department either for ordering or for development, compared with the seat which has proved itself with a live drop?

Mr. Strauss

They have both been approved and considered by the technicians concerned to be reliable, and preliminary investigations have shown that on this occasion the seat did function properly. No preference is given to this ejector compared with the other one. Some seats are fitted with this and some with the other.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree, as a matter of principle, that in experimental flying, safety devices such as ejection seats shall be of the very best? Is it not a case that this seat, through which Squadron Leader Wade lost his life, had not had a live drop made from it?

Mr. Strauss

That is quite true. I am advised that there is no need to have a live drop. There were dummy drops. I am advised that this is a very technical matter, but there was no need to have a live drop to prove to the satisfaction of my Department that this seat was good, and there is no reason at the moment to doubt that it was good.

Air Commodore Harvey

In view of the high fatality rate among civilian test pilots, will the right hon. Gentleman go into this, matter in rather more detail and have proper tests carried out on both seats to establish which is the better, so as to give the test pilots the best equipment available?

Mr. Strauss

The advice given to me was that both seats are equally good.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether any emergency exits have been successfully made by means of this type of seat?

Mr. Strauss

I have said that no live drops were made with this type of seat.