§ 2.52 p.m.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what opportunities are available in the United Kingdom for civil pilots to gain experience in supersonic flight.]
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE FOR THE ROYAL AIR FORCE (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, I assume that the noble Lord has in mind the training of airline pilots to fly the Concord supersonic airliner. This aircraft will provide new experiences for these pilots—namely, handling during supersonic flight and, what is just as important, handling during the take off, approach and landing. The only directly relevant training that can be given is on the Concord itself and every opportunity will be taken to provide experience for the civil aviation pilots concerned. In the main, this will occur during the development flying of the prototypes and pre-production aircraft and, of course, during the route-proving 153 flights before the aircraft comes into public service. This will be backed, as with all new aircraft, by intensive training on simulators in accordance with well-proven techniques.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for that full and informative reply. But does he not think that some valuable experience might be obtained by civil pilots, other than test pilots, flying military supersonic aircraft in order to get experience in supersonic flight prior to undergoing the kind of flying experience which the noble Lord described in his Answer? Is it not desirable that some selected civil pilots should be able to have this experience of supersonic flight as soon as possible?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord's concern, but, frankly, I am afraid I do not agree with him on these points. The handling characteristics of modern aircraft during supersonic flights are not significantly different from the high-speed subsonic characteristics with which civil pilots are already familiar, and this minor expansion of their experience can be adequately obtained in the modern type of flight simulator with which the noble Lord is no doubt familiar. Of much greater importance is to provide experience on aircraft with characteristics similar to those expected from the Concord during take-off and landing. The only supersonic aircraft we have available in this country is the Lightning, which really would not be suitable for this. I can assure the noble Lord that going through the sound barrier in a Lightning is something that you do not notice except on the dials.