HC Deb 14 October 1968 vol 770 cc8-10
10. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of Technology what are now the plans for the first flights of Concorde aircraft.

27. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Technology what are the latest plans for the first flights of the Concorde aircraft.

Mr. Benn

The first prototype is expected to fly from Toulouse at the end of December or early in the new year. The second should fly about six weeks later from Filton.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the assurance, which he declined to give in the summer, that the order of these flights will be determined on technical considerations only?

Mr. Benn

I can confirm that there will be no political interference with the technical development of Concorde in accordance with the programme laid down by the two companies.

Mr. Cronin

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that noise has become a very sensitive question, particularly regarding possible United States' flying rights in future? Will he, therefore, make sure that when these trial flights take place there is minimal disturbance of the public by noise?

Mr. Benn

The two points raised by my hon. Friend seem to run counter one to the other. If we are to overcome the noise problem in the minds of potential customers, we have to test the aircraft in such a way as to reveal its noise characteristics. However, I will bear in mind the point that we do not want any unnecessary noise from anything or anybody.

Mr. Biffen

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the revised times for the first flights have any financial implications and whether the total expenditure on development cost is likely to exceed the last estimates given to the House?

Mr. Benn

Concerning air projects, time is money and any delay tends to impose extra costs. It does not follow that the delay in the first flight will be reflected in equivalent delays throughout the period. In fact, we believe that the in-service date will not be greatly affected.

The last figure given to the House, agreed at £500 million at 1966 prices, incorporated an element of contingency, but the cost aspect of delay is one to which we give continuing consideration.

Mr. Ellis

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, in view of the co-operation that there has been on this joint project, it will be a tragedy if it develops into an unseemly wrangle as to which aircraft flies first? The House will welcome the decision that the aircraft that is to fly first is that which is technically ready first, and there is an equal amount of merit for both sides as this is a joint project.

Mr. Benn

I am grateful for support from my hon. Friend on this matter. We both have a Bristol interest in seeing that the 002 flies well and satisfactorily. But since both aircraft are identical—there is not a difference of a rivet between one and the other—and they are phased for testing purposes to begin with the 001 and go on to the 002, I am not prepared to seek to interfere.

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