Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580-582)



  Q580  Mr Wilshire: On safety, and first to both the local authority representatives, given that most accidents seem to happen near airports, how much interest do you take in the safety role of the CAA?

  Cllr Cadbury: I had always been led to believe that Heathrow was as safe an international airport as any until I read the report in The Times a couple of weeks ago of the Accident and Investigation Bureau on the US 747 flight that was stricken in April 2004. It was flying over the South-East of England on one failed jet engine and three unpowered engines. In its difficulties, it was trying to work out where to land. Because it had seen Heathrow by visuals—luckily it was a clear day—the pilot asked Air Traffic Control whether it would be okay to land at Heathrow. Air Traffic Control, based on their guidelines, basically thought there was no problem. The aircraft ended up taking quite a wiggly direction in order to lose height from central London over West London to land at Heathrow. Thank goodness, it landed safely. What the AIB pointed out was that the guidelines for ATC said very little about the need to avoid built-up areas when an aircraft is in trouble. I was really shocked to find that ATC does not have powers to direct a pilot to an airfield where the risk from the ground is much lower. The only danger indicator that ATC is required to look at is if a flight is carrying dangerous goods. In my view, a 747 that is loaded with sufficient fuel to cross the Atlantic in itself is carrying dangerous goods. We definitely believe now that the CAA should seriously, as the AIB has recommended, look at that.

  Q581  Mr Wilshire: Can I pursue this, Chairman? That is a long answer to a question I did not ask. The question I asked is: does your council engage with the CAA directly to discuss safety matters so that you are satisfied that it is doing its safety job properly, not about your reading things in The Times?

  Cllr Cadbury: We will be doing so now.

  Q582  Mr Scott: On the point you were mentioning about the jumbo jet which fortunately did land safely at Heathrow, do you agree it is absolutely ludicrous to fly a plane over London, including over my own constituency, when it could have been safely landed at a designated airport such as Stansted?

  Cllr Cadbury: I find it ludicrous it was directed over central London and that the ATC did not have the power to direct it elsewhere.

  Chairman: You have been very helpful. Thank you very much indeed.

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