HC Deb 16 November 1959 vol 613 cc786-8
27. Mr. W. Baxter

asked the Minister of Aviation if he is aware that on the morning of 9th November at about 11.50 a.m. a military aircraft approached dangerously near to the Vickers Viscount, flight 802, flying from Renfrew to London on flight number 899, both machines being at the time under ground control; if he will institute inquiries into this matter; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Sandys

I have ascertained that the B.E.A. Viscount in question and an R.A.F. Pembroke transport aircraft were, at about that time, awaiting permission to land. In accordance with usual practice, they were instructed by London Airport to fly at a height interval of 1,000 feet between one another. I understand that the crew of the Viscount did not see the Pembroke. On the other hand, the pilot of the Pembroke did see the Viscount. But he maintains that the two aircraft were not at any time dangerously close to one another. Nor did the airport radar control observe any undue convergence of the two aircraft.

Mr. Baxter

Is the Minister aware that two hon. Members were able to observe the aircraft coming very near to the Viscount? While I was taking all the necessary precautions to safeguard myself, and I had "lily" beside me in case we should go to another place, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Mr. Lilley) got quite a fright when this R.A.F. aircraft came near the Viscount. It was only when the R.A.F. aircraft was moving away from the Viscount that my attention was drawn to it. Is the Minister aware that there is no doubt that visibility was very bad indeed—it was rather foggy at the time—and that the aircraft was far too near the Viscount coming in? Will the Minister take some action to see that all aircraft, whether civil or R.A.F., come under one control?

Mr. Sandys

Two points are raised in the supplementary question. One is that the aircraft was too near. It is very hard for me to express an opinion about the distance at which the aircraft was flying when the hon. Member saw it. If the hon. Member has further information—and I doubt whether he has—I will, of course, look into it. I have in my Answer given such information as I have. The other point in the supplementary question is the subject of the next Question on the Order Paper.

Mr. Farey-Jones

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators of the British Empire and every other association concerned with the future of air traffic control are vitally concerned with this matter? Is he aware that for years they have been pressing for a single, unified air traffic control and that unless both civil and military control come under one centre—and I would prefer a civil organisation—the dangers involved are so paramount that, if the Minister has not the power, they should be the subject of a Cabinet decision forthwith?

Mr. Speaker

That question does not arise out of the Answer.