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Tuesday, 21 June 1949

Mr SPENDER (WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation how many times in the last , twelve months Constellation aircraft have been obliged to return to aerodromes shortly after taking off because of defects that have suddenly developed? What is the nature of the maintenance .and inspections that are made before the machines leave an aerodrome? What is the explanation of the many defects that have apparently occurred, compelling them to return?

Mr DRAKEFORD - Constellation aircraft are being used in many parts of the world with considerable success. One of the most recent orders placed with the manufacturers was for twenty Constellations, which will be operated by TransWorld Airlines. They are regarded as being the best aircraft available for long distance services. There may be a difference of opinion about that; but I remind honorable members that whenever new types of. aircraft come into use - and the Constellation No. 749, is a new typo, difficulties occur in the process of operational flying. There have been a number of delays with Constellation aircraft, and [ am not at all happy about that. However, it is far better to have delays than it is to have accidents, and I am glad that those who are in charge of flying operations insist that aircraft must return for repairs immediately defects occur. The honorable member must know quite well that I could not hope to tell him precisely the number of such incidents. A great deal, of publicity is given in the press to every incident of that nature. Somebody uses radio apparatus and intercepts signals sent from the aircraft by their pilots before returning. That is arranged for by the newspapers so that they can publish the stories to the detriment of government airlines. I say quite frankly that I should like the number of these incidents to be reduced, but I assure the honorable member that a close watch is kept on Constellation machines. The engineering establishment of Qantas Empire Airways Limited is one of the best in the world. Everybody knows that the reputation of the airline as an overseas operator is equal-

Mr Harrison - Its operational hours are about the lowest.

Mr DRAKEFORD - I remind the honorable member that it is one of the few overseas airlines that is showing a profit as the result of its operations. If the honorable gentleman had had an opportunity to travel overseas he would know that Qantas Empire Airways Limited has a reputation as good as any other overseas airline in the world. In addition, its engineering establishments are considered to be of a very high class. Nevertheless, in order that the latest information may be available, arrangements had been made for a high officer of the Curtiss Wright organization, which provides the engines for Constellation aircraft, to come to Australia to give every assistance in the maintenance and inspection of engines with a view to avoiding as far as possible any delays or returns to airports.

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