HC Deb 30 March 1955 vol 539 cc343-5
2. Mr. Beswick

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what inquiry has been made into the loss of two Shackleton aircraft which were lost from St. Eval on the evening of 11th January; at what time these aircraft took off; what was the estimated time of arrival back at base; when the last message was received from these aircraft; at what time search and rescue operations began; and if he is satisfied that no avoidable time elapsed before the first aircraft and surface vessels began their searches.

Mr. Ward

As the answer is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

I should, however, like to take this opportunity of expressing the sympathy of the Air Council with the relatives of those who are missing.

Mr. Beswick

If the Under-Secretary cannot give all the details for which I have asked, can he at least give the assurance for which I asked in the last part of my Question?

Mr. Ward

Yes, Sir. I have examined this matter very carefully, and I am quite satisfied that search and rescue operations were carried out as quickly as possible, and that no delay occurred before the aircraft and surface vessels began their search.

Following is the answer:

An inquiry into the circumstances of the loss of these aircraft was instituted on 14th January.

The two aircraft took off from St. Eval at 1014 and 1020 hours local time on 11th January, the first aircraft being due to return to base at 0114 hours on 12th January and the second aircraft at 0120 hours. The last messages were received at 2004 hours and 2055 hours respectively on 11th January.

The aircraft were under instruction to return to base should they fail to make contact with base over two consecutive hours. A search and rescue alert would not normally be put into force until one hour after the time the aircraft would be expected at base having failed to establish the required wireless contact. This would have been at approximately 0100 hours and 0200 hours on 12th January. The alert was however declared at 2235 hours on the 11th.

Initially, all possible checks with other aircraft and ground stations were carried out, and at 2315 hours a Shackleton was diverted to the area where the aircraft were thought to be in an attempt to establish contact with them. Full-scale area search and rescue commenced at 0045 hours on 12th January.

No naval vessels were in the presumed vicinity of the aircraft, but H.M.S. " Launceston Castle " proceeded to sea at 0315 hours on 12th January. A broadcast to shipping was made at 0120 hours on 12th January. During the next three days many ships and aircraft were employed in the search, but no trace of the missing aircraft was found.

I am satisfied that search and rescue operations were carried out expeditiously and that no delay occurred before aircraft and surface vessels began their search.