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Aircraft Engineering THE MONTHLY SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL ORGAN OF THE AERONAUTICAL ENGINEERING PROFESSION VOL XXI No 250 DECEMBER 1949 The immediate cause of the accident was the collision of the aircraft with an obstruction, the height of which was nearly 400 feet above MOST extraordinary situation has arisen over the delayed that shown on the chart in use by the pilot. The MINISTER OF CIVIL report, issued on November 23, of the inquiry into the un AVIATION is concerned to make the point that 'the decision of the fortunate accident to the K.L.M. Constellation near Prestwick pilot to circuit Prestwick at a height lower than the obstruction in the on October 20, 1948. The MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION has taken the vicinity could not have been influenced by the action, or the lack of unusual, and so far as we know unprecedented, course of issuing a action, of the staff of the air control or meteorological services'. statement disagreeing with the conclusions of the Court. He goes He does not explain how it was that three years after the end of the farther and states it as being his duty to defend members of the air war no official charts for a busy aerodrome like Prestwick had been traffic control staff and meteorological services against the implica issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Perhaps the best comment tion contained in the report that they indirectly bore some measure on this omission is that in fact official charts were rushed through, of responsibility for the accident—on the ground that these in presumably as a result of this accident, and issued in December dividuals, being Civil Servants, are not in a position to defend 1948. The amount of responsibility attaching to the two classes of themselves. It seems to us that by this action the MINISTER is not only Civil Servants the MINISTER is so anxious to exculpate is dealt with setting himself up as a Court of Appeal but, since he can only be in detail in the report and the Court's recommendations and is too voicing the opinions put before him privately by the Civil Servants involved a matter to be summarized here, but it seems abundantly referred to, or on their behalf, he is in effect allowing them to act clear that responsibility for the absence of accurate official charts, in this capacity themselves and pass judgment on criticisms of them which could so easily have been prepared from existing ordnance selves implied in the report; although, as M R T. P. MCDONALD, survey maps, can hardly be divested from the shoulders of Ministry K.C., the President of the Court, points out in a letter to the MINIS of Civil Aviation officials. TER, they were not only represented at the inquiry but, in some in stances at any rate, themselves gave evidence. The whole matter leaves a most unpleasant taste in the mouth and will not tend to raise the prestige of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Indeed, it encourages us to mention an activity, or (to quote the The Position Defined Minister) lack of it, which has been on our mind for some time. The Ministry delegates to the AIR REGISTRATION BOARD the examina As we understand the position, the MINISTER has the power to tion of candidates for Aircraft Engineers' licences while retaining in hold an inquiry into the causes of an accident to an aircraft, which power in this instance he delegated to the Court. He now claims to its own hands the actual issuing of the licences to successful candi have the power to overrule the findings of the members of the Court, dates on the recommendation of the Board. This in fact leads to considerable delay and we suggest that the Ministry should either who heard the evidence, which he did not. This claim seems to us so allow the Board to issue the licences or speed up its own machinery outrageous that it is difficult to show any restraint in commenting on for doing so. it. In other words, the MINISTER claims the right to appoint a court to inquire into certain circumstances, but if he does not like the result On another page of this issue we record the fact that the Ministry owing to its containing implied criticisms of some of his own em of Civil Aviation has taken over an enormous block of office build ployees he claims the further right to refuse to accept the findings. In ings which we have watched going up within a few hundred yards the light of this we cannot conceive of any responsible individual of this office for some months. We would suggest that it behoves being willing in the future to serve on a similar Court of Inquiry on the Ministry to disarm the criticism which is inevitably aroused by the appointment of the MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION. The position is this grandiloquent development in its amenities by making certain not improved by the fact that the MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION asserts that all its activities are fully justified and efficiently carried out. that he is acting not only on his own behalf but also for the SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR. Here, therefore, we have two Ministers of the A Footnote Crown claiming the right to refuse to accept the results of an inquiry which one of them has ordered if the findings are not acceptable to Most unfortunately, owing to the exigencies of press and publica persons in their own employ; for, though the voice is that of the tion dates we are compelled to pass for final printing what we have written above before the statement which it is now announced the Minister, it is quite obvious that he would not take such action on MINISTER is to make in the House of Lords on December I. We his own initiative but acts on representations emanating from his cannot see, however, that anything he may say by way of explana Department. tion, or apology, can affect the principle with which we have dealt. Even if, under the influence of public outcry, he consents to give his A Definite Responsibility reasons for taking the action he did, the fact remains that initially he declined to do so. The suggestion that the primary duty of a In view of the manifest public importance of this attitude we have Minister of the Crown is to protect Civil Servants from implied felt it right to add our own to the many other protests against it, criticism by a properly constituted Court is a claim that seems to us although the incident hardly perhaps comes strictly within the pur as unsound as it is novel. The sacrosanctity of the Civil Service is view of an engineering paper such as ours. There is, however, one a doctrine of doubtful orthodoxy. detail aspect of the matter on which we feel entitled to comment.
Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology – Emerald Publishing
Published: Dec 1, 1949
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