§ 2.40 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I beg to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they are making towards the solution of the problem of installing backward facing seats in civil aircraft.]
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has raised this very interesting question, which has been the subject of much expert consideration, both nationally and internationally. Safety in a crash depends on the ability of the seat and its attachments to withstand the decelerative forces applied to the aircraft at the time of the crash. We believe that seats strengthened to withstand these forces should face to the rear in cases where, in order to make the maximum use of the available space, the seats are placed close together. This would avoid the hazards to passengers that arise from the tendency to jerk forward against the restraining safety belt.
Any such strengthening of the seats and their attachments involves an addition to the weight of the aircraft, and the safety considerations have to be balanced against the economic penalties of increased weight. Therefore, a series of design studies have been ordered by the Ministry of Supply to ascertain what weight penalties and engineering problems would be involved in installing backward facing seats designed to withstand decelerative forces of 12G, 15G and 25G (G, of course, equals the force of gravity) in the following types of modern aircraft: Pionair, Comet, Bristol 175 and Viscount. Two of these design studies have just been received. As the others are received they will be carefully examined, and it is hoped that they will establish the possibility of adopting rearward facing seats, at any rate in high density layouts, without incurring undue economic penalties.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply and for the consideration that Her Majesty's Government are giving to this question. I noticed recently that Australia has 454 adopted this policy, as also has the Royal Air Force. I am not at all sure (and I ask the noble Earl this question) whether the Ministry of Supply are not letting the best be the enemy of the good in this matter—in other words, whether it is necessary to cater for very intensive forces when it is possible to cater quite easily for medium G forces. Furthermore, I should like to ask the noble Earl this question: Is it not possible to have this kind of seating in the new aeroplanes, the jet and the turbo-prop? I understand the difficulties that arise with existing planes, but is it not possible for the new types coming into production to have this kind of seating?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for what he said about my reply. I said in my answer that we are balancing economic factors against safety, and I very much hope that the best will not be made the enemy of the good. In regard to the new types, that again is a question of making use of the studies which have been made. I should like to emphasise that this is not the only consideration which we have in mind—the major consideration is that there should be no accidents at all. It is a matter for some pride—noble Lords opposite have the right to that pride, too—that during the whole of last year there was no fatal accident in either of the Corporations or in any of their associate services. That is a matter upon which I am sure the whole House is glad to congratulate them.