HC Deb 25 January 1961 vol 633 cc141-2
4. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Air why ejector seats are not provided for all the crew of V-bombers instead of merely for the two pilots, in view of the fact that ejector seats for all the crew are technically possible in V-bombers and are provided for all the crew in the B47, B52, B58 and the proposed B70 bombers of the United States Air Force.

Mr. J. Amery

The rear crew members are, of course, provided with an escape hatch. To fit ejector seats for them would involve a large modification programme and the depletion of Bomber Command's front line over a long period.

Mr. Cronin

Is it not the case that, in the commonest type of emergency, the only way to escape from these bombers is by means of the ejector seats? In view of the unselfishness and high sense of honour which characterise the Royal Air Force, is not the present arrangement most detrimental to the morale of the R.A.F.?

Mr. Amery

No. I am advised that the greater number of accidents take place al high altitudes, when pilots are able, with their ejector seats, to go on piloting while the rest of the crew escape; they then have the advantage of ejection in the latter phase of the accident. When accidents happen at low level, this is not so easy. The hon. Gentleman and I have travelled together in airliners, and in those airliners there were no ejection seats or any other kind of escape apparatus.

Mr. Mulley

If it is not possible for changes to be made in existing aircraft, will not the Secretary of State give an assurance that this point will be considered in any new designs of aircraft undergoing manufacture at present?

Mr. Amery

I should not like to give an assurance at the moment, but I will certainly look into it.