HC Deb 26 August 1968 vol 769 cc1271-2
Mr. Hazell

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement about the midair collision over Holt, Norfolk, on 19th August, 1968.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

The aircraft involved were a Victor tanker from Royal Air Force Station, Marham, in Norfolk, and a Canberra from Royal Air Force Station, Bruggen, in Germany. They collided in mid-air on the night of 19th August, 1968, at approximately 10.10 p.m., at an estimated height of 15,000 feet. Wreckage was spread over a wide area about three miles south-west of Sheringham.

The Victor was climbing away from its base in the recognised climbing lane to begin a routine crew training flight. Since it was not involved in a refuelling exercise, no additional fuel was carried. It had been airborne for about 10 minutes when the accident occurred.

The Canberra had completed a bombing exercise on the Wainfleet range, off the Lincolnshire coast, and was climbing away to the east. It had already dropped its practice bomb. Heavy cloud and thunderstorms were present in the area at the time. The circumstances in which the accident occurred are now the subject of a Board of Inquiry.

All crew members, four in the Victor and three in the Canberra, were killed. I am sure that the whole House will join me in expressing profound sympathy for all who have been bereaved in this tragic accident.

Mr. Hazell

I thank my hon. Fried for his statement and would associate myself with the message of sympathy to the relatives and dependants of the deceased airmen and also to the sick and elderly people of Holt who suffered a great shock as a result of the explosion.

As it was a miracle that Holt did not suffer loss by death, will the Minister again look at the question of low flying over built-up areas? Finally, can my hon. Friend inform the House when the Board of Inquiry's report likely to be available?

Mr. Rees

The R.A.F. regrets that civilians were involved marginally in the accident. However, this was not low flying, but flying at 15,000 feet. The R.A.F. does low flying to keep operationally efficient, and the fact that areas are designated and low flying connection routes are designated is a flight safety measure. Aircraft should not fly at lower than 2,000 ft. over townships; if my hon. Friend has any evidence to the contrary perhaps he will let me know.

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