HC Deb 25 October 1971 vol 823 cc1225-7
35. Mr. Mather

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement about the disappearance of the Piper Cub G-AYPN which took off from Lasham airfield on Saturday, 28th August, 1971.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Mr. A. J. Slade, with the approval of the Lasham Gliding Society, took off from Lasham in Piper Cub G-AYPN soon after noon on Saturday, 28th August, with one passenger, leaving no indication of where he proposed to fly. However, the aircraft was seen to turn southwards soon after takeoff. Since there was no immediate further need to use the aircraft, the fact that it had not been returned to the hangar was not confirmed until Monday, 30th August, and at that stage the Aldershot Police and the Department's Accidents Investigation Branch were informed. A number of inquiries, including an air search, have been made, but I regret to say that up to the present time no trace of the aircraft or its occupants have come to light.

I know the House will wish to join with me in expressing sympathy to the relatives of those lost on the flight.

Mr. Mather

I thank my hon. Friend for that statement and wish to associate myself with his expression of sympathy for the tragic aspects of the case. Is my hon. Friend aware that arrangements for notifying the next of kin in this case seem to have broken down? Secondly, is he aware that the plane was 43 hours overdue before that fact was discovered? Thirdly, is he satisfied that safety regulations for light planes are all that they should be at the present time?

Mr. Grant

On the first point, my hon. Friend will appreciate that notification is the responsibility of the club, the proprietor, or the operator, as the case may be. The reporting of the plane being overdue is likewise the concern of the proprietor of the plane in this case.

On the third point, one should and must never be entirely satisfied with rules. The rules are kept under very careful review. This incident, as, indeed, other unfortunate incidents, will be taken into consideration during these reviews.

Mr. Mason

I should like to associate my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself with the sympathy which the Minister has expressed about this incident. Is it not time that the hon. Gentleman started to survey and control many of these small airports, especially because of the non-scheduled operations of small aircraft and their danger to large passenger aircraft? Would it not be right that in future they should at all times file their flight plans and have to carry radio equipment?

Mr. Grant

I should make it clear that in this case there was no danger to scheduled services because this plane was not operating in controlled air space.

As to the carriage of a radio, I would only say that over the last eight years 10 accidents have taken place involving private aircraft, including this one, that in all of them, except this one, they were carrying radio equipment. One should not assume that the carrying of radio equipment is an automatic safety device.

On the question of flight plans, I should draw attention to the fact that all those who get a pilot's certificate are required to know the United Kingdom Air Pilot publication which makes it clear that aircraft not equipped with radio are advised to file a flight plan if they intend to fly more than 10 miles off the coast, or over sparsely populated or mountainous areas. That was not done in this case.

Mr. Mason

Will the hon. Gentleman consider introducing legislation on this score, in view of the danger to passenger-carrying aircraft from non-scheduled small aircraft?

Mr. Grant

All I am prepared to say is that, as I indicated earlier, these matters are governed by rules made under the Air Navigation Order. These rules are constantly under review, and I do not think that I can say anything more now. We shall consider this incident, as we do all others, in deciding whether any change is required.