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Friday, 16 September 1949

Mr FALSTEIN (WATSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the absence of the Minister for Air, I ask the Prime Minister whether a tragic happening which resulted in the loss of a highly trained pilot and two fighter aircraft occurred near Fairbairn aerodrome yesterday while the aircraft were engaged in formation flying? Is formation flying an extremely dangerous exercise because the risk of collision is great and very great if carried out at night, or continued into cloud, as it was yesterday? Further, is formation flying quite obsolete for operational or other purposes, except, perhaps, as a spectacle to be observed from the ground? If they are facts, will the right honorable gentleman ask the Chief of the Air Staff to issue an order prohibiting formation flying entirely or limiting it to the keeping of formations of not less than two wing spans distance or only to aircraft fitted with an automatic ejector-type seat, which allows the pilot's canopy to fall away and catapults the pilot clear of the aircraft? Furthermore, will the Prime Minister inquire whether the aircraft that spun in yesterday and could not be approached because of exploding .5 ammunition was about to engage on a gunnery exercise ? If it was not, will he ask Air Marshal Jones to order that live ammunition is not to be loaded unless a gunnery exercise is to be carried out?

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