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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) . - 1 am concerned about one aspect of civil aviation. I should like the Minister to give me some information about it, if he will. We all know the wonderful record of civil aviation in Australia. Since 1953 there have been only two accidents involving loss of life on the major air services, although 26 million passengers have been carried and about 16.000 million passenger miles have been flown. The aircraft employed on these services have flown about 3 million miles. With only two accidents, that is a magnificent record.

I was interested to read and somewhat concerned to know of the number of accidents to light aircraft. It is understandable that light single engined aircraft have not the same safety margin. On the average, over the past five years there have been about 30 crop dusting accidents each year. There have been more accidents in some years than in others and there have been quite a number of fatalities. These accidents are discussed in the report of the Department of Civil Aviation. The Minister, I know, is not trying to hide anything. The information is all here to be read, but possibly the public does not know these things. I notice that in two accidents the under-strut of the wing of the aircraft gave way. This seems to me to be an elementary sort of thing and perhaps with better supervision the accidents might not have occurred. What are the qualifications for pilots of crop dusting aircraft? Crop dusting from the air is a major industry today. I understand that about 100,000 miles have been flown by crop dusting machines this year. Will the Minister say whether or not there is any limit on the hours that these men may work?

Are their qualifications high enough for the work? is there any stipulation as to the age at which they must retire from the industry? What sort of maintenance have the crop dusting companies to provide? Some of the aerodromes from which they operate arc in outlying country areas. Is it possible that at these places the mechanical facilities and technical skill necessary to keep the aircraft in order for this heavy work are not available? ls it possible that these conditions exist even at Bankstown from which crop dusting aircraft leave to service areas surrounding Sydney? 1 am interested in this matter, because I knew two young men who were killed in crop dusting accidents. 1. know their families, who are very concerned. They asked me especially to mention this matter during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation.

I should like to ask the Minister a few questions about his attitude on the general situation arising from the Government's policy of two airlines on the major trunk routes. The present Minister and the previous Minister have always said that they favoured two airlines on the major trunk routes throughout the Commonwealth.

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