HC Deb 25 November 1999 vol 339 c171W
Dr. Tonge

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received on the damage to Holy Trinity Primary School in Richmond caused by a block of ice falling from an aircraft on 19 November; and if he will make a statement on the action his Department takes to prevent such incidents [99647]

Mr. Mullin

My Department has not received any such representations. Nor has the incident been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Most icefalls from aircraft are due to ice which has formed on the outside of the aircraft detaching itself as it descends into warmer air. The accumulation of ice may be caused by atmospheric conditions, or it may occur due to leakage from a faulty seal on one of the hose sockets used to load or unload liquid to the aircraft. Incidents are rare in relation to the volume of air traffic. In the last 12 months, 24 incidents have been recorded of icefall and 16 of other falling objects; this level of occurrence has not risen in the last five years, despite significant increases in traffic over that period.

The Government take seriously all occurrences of ice and debris falling from an aircraft. The primary way to tackle the problem is to ensure that regulations on the safe manufacture and operation of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) aircraft are adhered to. There are many such regulations: for example, before aircraft can be entered on national registers they must meet the appropriate standards for design and construction of aircraft, including resistance to leakage of on-board water or toilet systems which is cause of the build up of ice on the exterior of aircraft.

The CAA will investigate icefall incidents if possible, but it is not an easy process and it is extremely rare to confirm the origin of an icefall. The main focus has to be on striving to reduce the number of icefalls by encouraging the aviation industry to improve the relevant systems and procedures.