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Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1794

Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) - The purpose of the Bill before the House is to amend the Air Navigation Act to ratify an agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organisation whereby the council of that body is to be increased from 27 to 30 members. Also, the Bill contains a minor amendment, namely, the deletion of section 6 of the Air Navigation Act which deals with international organisations' privileges and immunities - a matter which has already been covered in other legislation which passed through this Parliament earlier this year.

The Opposition has no objection to the amendment in regard to ICAO representation. I cannot see any great difference whether the council has 27 or 30 members. If that body feels that increased membership will be an improvement I do not object to such a change. But what does concern members of the Opposition is the way in which the articles of ICAO are being carried out. We object to the way in which this Government and the Department of Civil Aviation are conducting inquiries into air accidents involving international aircraft. We also object to the tragic, even disastrous, agreement that was entered into or accepted by the Depart ment of Civil Aviation, and in particular by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) with the Americans. This agreement was announced by the Minister last Sunday night. For this reason and so that we may debate these issues and test the feeling of the House I move as an amendment to the motion 'That the Bill be now read a second time':

That all words after "That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading the House is of opinion that a joint select committee should be established to investigate and report upon accidents involving international aircraft and the serious problems of Qantas and the South Pacific route.'

In support of my amendment I wish to refer to what were in my opinion 3 very serious accidents which have occurred at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport since December 1969. The first accident involved a Pan American Airlines 707 jet the pilot of which, on 1st September 1969, had to abort its takeoff. It took the Department of Civil Aviation 9i months to conclude its inquiries and to bring down a report on this accident. Fortunately noone was seriously injured and irreparable damage was not done to the aircraft. The points that were brought out by the inquiry were centred on one matter, namely, a defective hydrometer. Because of a fault in the hydrometer the aircraft was overloaded to the extent of 6,800 lb of fuel. This was the principal point that was grasped by the inquiry to justify the fact that the pilot had to abort takeoff. It had been alleged that seagulls were sucked into the intakes - of two of the motors and the aircraft lost power at a critical point. The pilot then had to abort takeoff and as a result the aircraft travelled 200 feet beyond the end of the runway. The aircraft was fortunate enough to move into some very soft soil in which it came to a halt. As I said earlier no-one suffered serious injury.

The point I want to bring out is that there was a lot of verbiage and technical jargon in the report on this accident but there was no mention of one very important point - that the insufficient length of runway had been referred to by this Parliament's Public Works Committee. The Committee has drawn attention a number of times to the fact that the runways should be extended to overcome a problem such as the one which developed on this occasion. The Australian Federation of Air Pilots has submitted evidence on a number of occasions to Public Works Committees drawing attention to the fact that, provided everything went well, there would not be aborted takeoffs such as this one, and the runways were quite long enough. However, the Federation pointed out that in the event of any problem developing, such as the pilot overshooting the threshhold on touchdown or a belated or aborted takeoff the runways were not long enough. All those facts were overlooked by the inquiry.

I am wondering whether it was a policy of the Government deliberately to refrain from extending the runways because at that time Pan American Airways, which was the principal operator on the South Pacific run at that time, was flying long range Boeing 707 321B series jets whereas Qantas Airways Ltd was operating Boeing 707 138B series jets which had shorter range and carried a smaller load. If the runway was shorter, as was the case at that time, Pan American Airlines was unable to use its longer range aircraft to their maximum capacity. Pan American \irlines aircraft were going out light loaded whereas Qantas aircraft were going out with full loads. I ask whether this was one of the points which was conveniently overlooked by the inquiry because its report made no reference whatever to the fact that if the runway had been only 200 feet longer an accident would not have occurred and the Pan American aircraft would not have been severely damaged. If the runway had been longer the cost of repairing the aircraft would have been avoided and the passengers would not have been brought so close to a serious accident.

The second accident to which I wish to refer occurred at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport on 29lh January this year when a Trans-Australia Airlines Boeing 727 aircraft collided with a Canadian Pacific Airlines Ltd DC8 aircraft which was crossing the runway on which the TAA 727 had been cleared for takeoff. The TAA pilot must have been horrified to see the Canadian Pacific aircraft in front of him as he was travelling down the north-south runway. We in this Parliament have had no report on the accident since it occurred 8 months and one week ago - actually 8 months ago last Friday night. The Minister for Civil Aviation has not made a report to the Parliament I believe that the inquiry into this accident has not yet concluded.

I would like from the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation in this House, an explanation of some other incidents. I would like to know why the TAA voice recorder was confiscated by the Department of Civil Aviation officers without authority although there is an agreement that this tape cannot be removed unless someone is injured.

All I ask for is an answer to that question and an answer to when this Parliament can expect a report on the results of the inquiry into the near tragic accident to which I have just referred. The accident involving the TAA and Canadian Pacific Airlines aircraft could have been one of the worst in the history of Australian aviation. The aircraft were pretty well loaded and carried more than 200 people. It was only by a miracle that the TAA pilot was able to lift off in time to avert a tragedy, although the aircraft sustained a considerable amount of damage. However, as far as aviation is concerned the aircraft were not nearly write-offs.

The other accident to which 1 would like to refer involved a Pan American Airways Boeing 747 jet which overshot the east-west runway at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport on Sunday 18th July. Once again if the runway had been an extra 200 feet in length an accident would not have occurred. I again give the facts that I put forward in my first example. The Public Works Committee of this Parliament and the Australian Federation of Air Pilots have drawn attention time and time again to the short runways. They were all right if everything went well but this was another example of where everything did not go well.

On Sunday 18th July the Pan American Boeing 747 overshot the Sydney east-west runway, admittedly after the pilot had touched down about 4,000 feet from the threshold. He was about 2,500 feet further up the track than he should have been. There is an argument as to whether he should have attempted to go around again. The facts are that he put down at that point and went on with it. It was only when it became obvious to him that there was insufficient runway that he was able to steer the aircraft into a controlled right hand slide off the end of the runway. If he had not been able to carry out this manoeuvre it is certain that the aircraft would have gone over the runway and crashed over the embankment into a huge cement pipe which we all know and have seen on many occasions. That was on the Sunday.

On Monday 19th July Pan American Airways made a statement that the landing aids at Sydney airport were useless for jumbo jets. On Tuesday 20th June the Director-General of Civil Aviation, Sir Donald Anderson, blasted the pilot of the Pan American 747 and is alleged to have said that the pilot made a major error in judgment and that it was astounding that the error had gone uncorrected. He went on to say that before Pan American began operating Boeing 747 jets into Sydney last October, the Department of Civil Aviation had written to the airline on 17th September and explained the landing aids. Pan American Airways has since denied this. It is also alleged that after the accident the pilot stated that he did not use the system and had no instructions whatever which would allow or cause him to use it.

The Director-General in his attack on Captain McDonald, captain of the Pan American 747, quoted as his authority Captain R. Gray, a Department of Civil Aviation heavy transport examiner who had undergone a conversion course for the Boeing 747 aircraft and is fully endorsed in respect of it. The Director-General quoted this man as his authority when saying that the runway at Kingsford-Smith airport is satisfactory and suitable for landing 747 jets. I say this without in any way trying to denigrate the ability and experience of Captain Gray as a pilot. I accept that the man is fully endorsed in relation to the 747 aircraft. What I would like to know from the Minister is whether he or the Director-General of Civil Aviation can explain where Captain Gray gained his experience in landing 747 aircraft on the T-VASI system which, I understand is installed only in Australia and New Zealand. I believe it is being installed in Nepal, Fiji and Manila but at this point of time and at the time of the accident it was installed only in Australia. The T-VAS] system is a new system introduced and perfected by the aviation industry here in Australia. I understand that Captain Gray is endorsed in relation to this aircraft but I would like to know when he learned to operate under the T-VASI system. Was it in the United States of America where there is no T-VASI system or was it in Australia where there is a T-VASI system but no 747s on which he could do his training? This is the important matter which the Minister should explain to the Parliament. Furthermore, if everyone in civil aviation in Australia is so well informed on the T-VASI system and its use by 747 pilots, can the Minister explain why the day after Sir Donald's attack on Captain McDonald an urgent and secret film session was held in the Qantas route qualification film theatre at Mascot at 2 p.m. so that the Department of Civil Aviation could give Qantas managerial and senior training pilots their first look at a film demonstrating the different methods of using the T-VASI approach slope guidance for 747 aircraft? Whilst Qantas has now accepted the T-VASI system it did not always accept it and I would like to quote an extract from the Qantas 'Flight Crew Instruction Manual' and the 'Flight Crew Training Manual' under the heading Visual Approach Slope Indicator'. It reads:

Boeing studies of the final approach and landing geometry of the 747 indicate that existing VASI systems should not be used as landing aids.

All VASI systems are visual projections of the approach path normally aligned to intersect the runway at a point 1000 to 1S00 feet beyond the threshold. When ILS is installed, VASI visually coincides with the ILS glide slope.

Flying the VASI glide slope to touch down is the same as selecting a visual aim point on the runway adjacent to the VASI installation. The difference between the eye reference path and the gear path of the 747 results in a deceptively low approach with marginal or insufficient threshold height. Landing gear touch down may occur well short of the runway. Short of new installations, realignment of present VASI or new procedures developed for the use of T-VASI, the increased height of the eye reference point cannot be adequately compensated. Therefore, VASI should be disregarded as an aid to landing until new installations have been made or present installations or procedures modified, flight checked and approved by responsible agencies.

That was the attitude of Qantas to the T-VASI system, the suitability of which 1 am not questioning. What I am saying is that at the time of the accident and when Sir Donald Anderson made his attack on the pilot the T-VASI system had not been fully explained or accepted by the various airlines that were operating into Sydney. The Pan American pilot involved in this incident stated that he had no instructions from Pan American Airways as to what he was to do.

Mr Swartz - What year were the manuals from which you quoted? Did you quote Qantas?

Mr CHARLES JONES - I am quoting from a journal and I hand it to you. What I am concerned about is that one is unable to gain some information on these matters. On 23rd July I asked a question of Mr Doubleday, Regional Director for New South Wales, who said that he could not answer it but that he would pass it on. Whilst I have not time to relate the whole of the question, I sought information in relation to the points I have made on this subject and as at this date I have not yet received a reply to my question. This gives honourable members an example of what happens so far as this Department is concerned over the supply of information. I do not know whether it is the Department or the Minister who is to blame. There should be a select committee set up to inquire into the investigation procedures for accidents involving foreign aircraft. Such accidents should be investigated by an impartial panel of experts appointed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation charged with the responsibility of revealing and not concealing, as can be the case when accidents are investigated by home town authorities. What I am afraid of is that, just as in the first incident to which I referred we had a home town authority appeal result, we might get the same in the next inquiry. The same might apply in other countries. What we want are total and impartial inquiries wherein the facts are brought out and wherein information is not concealed. I would like to see the members of this Parliament given the opportunity of examining these matters more fully than they are able to at present.

The other matter to which I would like to refer in the limited time available to me now is the agreement that has been entered into by Australia and the United States of America relating to the increase in flight frequencies between Australia and the United States. It is obvious that Australia has really taken a bashing at the conference which took place and the only thing the Government could say came in a reply to a question which I asked the Minister for National Development on 28th September. He said - this is all that we got out of him, and when I say 'we' I mean Qantas, because it is Australia's airline:

It was that in, future the control of arrangements regarding capacity on the Pacific route will be in the hands of the two governments, not in the hands of the airlines or the American Civil Aeronautics Board.

What is the American Civil Aeronautics Board? It is, in effect, the American Government. Any decision made by that Board, such as the one which said that Qantas could not land Boeing 747s in America, has to be ratified first by the Administration. In actual fact, what the Minister told me on Tuesday of this week was a lot of bunkum because that arrangement already exists. When the Civil Aeronautics Board makes a decision, such as the one it made concerning the important question about Qantas 747s, it has to be ratified by the American Administration. So the position has always been that a decision by the Board has been a decision by the American Administration. The situation has always existed where this Government has been able to confer with the American Administration. What we want to do very quickly-

Mr Swartz - That is now changed.

Mr CHARLES JONES - The Minister will have an opportunity to make his speech shortly. He could have made * a statement on this question any day this week. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) sat on the report concerning additional flights across the Pacific for 3 weeks. He was afraid to bring it in. He waited until the Parliament had adjourned. Parliament adjourned on the Thursday night and on the Sunday the Minister for Civil Aviation released a statement to the Press. Why did he not have the courage to come into this Parliament and make the statement where it should have been made? And the Minister for National Development knows that the Minister for Civil Aviation sat on the report concerning the siting of Sydney's second airport for months and months - for 12 months all told. He sat on this report concerning additional flights across the Pacific for 3 weeks. He was finally forced into the position where he could not sit on it any longer; it got too hot for him.

Mr Swartz - Control yourself, Charles.

Mr CHARLES JONES - I am completely under control. I am just telling you where to get off.

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