HC Deb 19 May 1954 vol 527 cc2076-9
12. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if consideration will now be given to reviewing the regulations governing helicopters in the air, with a view to reducing the stringency of the regulations as an incentive to develop and use this type of transport in this country.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Profumo)

The regulations governing helicopters, in common with all safety regulations, are constantly under review. I cannot agree that they are unnecessarily stringent at this stage of helicopter development or a disincentive to the use of the helicopter as a form of transport.

Mr. Dodds

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that people who are concerned with the manufacture of helicopters tell me that this should be discussed, particularly as the national Press has given details in the last day of a helicopter which has been made but which is not allowed to be flown until another one is built and supervised from first to last? Does he not think that it is time there should be another discussion on this point, because helicopters are much safer now than ever they were when the present regulations were introduced?

Mr. Profumo

I have said that these regulations have been under review. I should add that my right hon. Friend is reinforced in his view about these Regulations, first, by the advice of the Air Safety Board and secondly, by the manufacturers themselves who agree—and I have spoken to them in person—that they are reasonable and necessary during the present development stage when only single-engined helicopters are available.

Mr. William Paling

Is the Minister aware that this question of helicopters has been discussed in this House for years? Can he now say when we are likely to develop a twin-engined helicopter?

Mr. Profumo

I think that is another question. I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that every haste is being made to see that the twin-engined helicopter is brought in as speedily as possible.

Mr. Beswick

Is not the difficulty not the regulations of the Department, but the dilatoriness of manufacturers in producing the necessary machines?

Mr. Profumo

I cannot accept that statement, although I think that the hon. Gentleman wants to be helpful. That is not the case. The manufacturers are pressing ahead with all possible speed. The fact remains, as the hon. Gentleman knows very well himself, that we cannot develop any sort of aeroplane until we have had a chance of flying it for a sufficient time during the testing period, and that is being done with every possible speed.

Mr. Dodds

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the Central Post Office in Chicago has had 40,000 landings and take-offs on a roof approximately 240 feet from the street and not one single mishap in those 40,000 landings and take-offs with a single-engined helicopter?

Mr. Profumo

I cannot be concerned with what happens in other countries.

Mr. Snow

You should be.

Mr. Profumo

I am speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, and that is what I am responsible for. It is not my right hon. Friend's policy or practice to prevent flights by helicopter into the Central London area, providing the flights are routed in such a manner that in the event of engine failure landings can be made without risk to persons on the ground. This, surely, cannot be regarded as a stringent regulation. To relax this precaution would be to endanger the public.

15. Mr. Holt

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many applications he has received and granted to run regular passenger transport ser vices in the United Kingdom by helicopter; and when the first service is expected to start.

Mr. Profumo

I am informed that the Air Transport Advisory Council have recently received one application from an independent company for permission to run regular helicopter services which, in the initial years, would be confined to the carriage of freight, but developed later as passenger services. I understand that B.E.A.C, as part of their helicopter development programme, also intend to apply shortly to the A.T.A.C. for authority to introduce an experimental scheduled passenger service on a new route this summer.

Mr. Holt

Have the applications been granted?

Mr. Profumo

The applications are being submitted to the Air Transport Advisory Council.

Mr. Ernest Davies

For which routes have applications been made?

Mr. Profumo

Until the applications are advertised in the normal way by the Air Transport Advisory Council, it would be inappropriate for me to reveal any of the details.

Hon. Members


16. Mr. Holt

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what restrictions prevent or impede the purchase of suitable helicopters from overseas for regular passenger transport services in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Profumo

If a helicopter is developed in an overseas country suitable for regular passenger transport services in the United Kingdom, there would be no restrictions preventing or impeding its purchase other than normal import licensing and currency regulations existing at that time.

Mr. Holt

What are those import licensing regulations?

Mr. Profumo

They are a question for the Board of Trade.

Mr. Nabarro

Does my hon. Friend recall that when the experimental service between Birmingham and London was withdrawn last year, an undertaking was given by British European Airways that they would revive a similar service of an experimental character between other main provincial centres? As since that date we have heard no more of this, can my hon. Friend give any information?

Mr. Profumo

The only information I can give is that that has nothing to do with the importation of foreign aircraft.