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Tuesday, 14 September 1971
Page: 1226

Mr GRAHAM (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the Minister for Defence been advised of details of a recent accident in the United States of America involving an Fill aircraft, whilst that aircraft was flying low at high speed on tactical reconnaissance training? Further, does the Minister have any information for the House about the operational wing of Fill aircraft based at Upper Heyford in England?

Mr FAIRBAIRN (FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Defence) - I am informed that the accident to which the honourable member refers was not caused by any fail.ture of the -aircraft itself, but. was one which could have happened to any fast low flying aircraft. Apparently, what happened was that this plane was on terrain following radar and was coming in at about 1,000 feet at some SOO knots when it struck an extremely large bird. The bird went through the windscreen and the canopy and severely injured the navigator. The pilot disengaged the terrain following radar and found the nose dipped forward at about 30 degrees. As he was finding some difficulty in controlling the aircraft he ejected successfully.

This problem of birds is associated with aircraft which are low flying at high speed. There have been problems of ingestion of birds into engines and also problems of windscreens being broken by collision with birds. In fact, I informed the House that on one occasion one of the tests that was undertaken when the TSR2 was being manufactured in England was to fire at near sonic speed dead chooks .at the windscreen to see whether or not it broke. I have been speaking to the Acting Secretary of the United States Air Force, who is in Australia at the present moment, and he has said that this windscreen is being looked at at the moment to see whether there are ways in which it can be strengthened although it is believed - and I believe, to the best of my knowledge anyway - that this is the first occasion on which this has happened to the FI 1 1.

The Fill came back into operation some 14 months ago. There are now 340 of these aircraft flying and, of these, I think 79 are on operation in Europe with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces. They are giving extremely good and reliable operation performances. The tests which Australia insisted should be undertaken before we would make our final decision on the Fill are proceeding and I believe that, towards the end of this year, these tests will be far enough advanced for the Government to make a decision on the future of this aircraft.

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