HC Deb 23 July 1970 vol 804 cc232-3W
Mr. Dan Jones

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a further statement regarding the Comet disaster that took place on Friday, 3rd July, 1970, near Barcelona.

Mr. Corfield

Yes. The Spanish authorities and members of the United Kingdom Accidents Investigation Branch have been working together to reconstruct the flight path followed by the aircraft. This shows that instead of following the normal practice of passing over the Sabadell radio beacon before turning to the south-east and descending over comparatively low ground towards the coast, the aircraft turned on to a south-easterly heading about 25 miles before reaching Sabadell. As a result, the aircraft descended into an area of high ground and struck the slopes of Montseny at a height of about 3,500 feet. The evidence available indicates that there was no pre-crash failure or malfunction of the aircraft.

From a study of the recording of the radio-telephony conversations between Barcelona control and the aircraft, it is clear that the pilot was aware of the altitude at which he was flying and, therefore, altimeter mis-reading or mis-setting is not relevant. However, it also appears from this interchange of messages, which includes references to an E.T.A. for Sabadell and a radar contact, that both the pilot and the radar controller at Barcelona mistakenly thought the aircraft had, in fact, passed over, or close to, Sabadell before descending. How this came about is not yet known. This important aspect of the investigation is being followed up in detail by the Spanish authorities.

It is not possible at this time to forecast when the Spanish investigation will be completed. However, as soon as its report becomes available, agreement will be sought for publication of an English translation in the United Kingdom.

Since I reported to the House on 6th July, I have received further news of the very great assistance given by the Mayor of Arbucias and the local residents immediately following the discovery of the wreckage. I am certain the House will wish to join me in thanking them for their help at the time and their spontaneous expression of sympathy shown by the large number of those who attended the funeral.—[Vol. 803, c. 325–8.]