HC Deb 31 October 1986 vol 103 cc295-6W
Mr. Ron Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he has plans to improve safety measures at Heathrow airport following the Accident Investigation Board's report of a dangerous incident involving two British Airways jets on 29 July; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what action he proposes to take following the publication by the accident investigation bureau's report into the airliner near-miss incident over Stanmore on 29 July last.

Mr. Michael Spicer

The Civil Aviation Authority is responsible, through the National Air Traffic Services, for all traffic control.

The incident reported upon by the Accident Investigation Branch resulted from human error on the part of an individual controller with a previously impeccable record. This individual was withdrawn from duty to be subjected to a period of retraining followed by re-examination and has, as a result, been passed fit to resume normal duties.

The CAA has informed me that the control procedures relating to the flight paths of aircraft approaching Heathrow have been thoroughly reviewed and confirmed to be satisfactory.

In the light of the report, NATS instructions which already forbade the admission of unauthorised visitors have been strengthened by a further instruction banning the close proximity of visitors to air traffic controllers at their working positions. In addition, the chairman of the CAA is urgently considering whether there is any further remedial action that needs to be taken.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what arrangements the Civil Aviation Authority makes for the control of air traffic over Greater London; what resources are devoted to this task; what steps the Civil Aviation Authority takes to ensure that the system is safe and efficient; when the system was last reviewed and updated; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Spicer

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) fulfills its responsibilities for air traffic control through the National Air Traffic Services. In the London area, air traffic control is exercised by the NATS from the London air traffic control centre at West Drayton and the control tower at Heathrow.

I am informed by the CAA that the services are provided by highly trained and licensed air traffic controllers, whose equipment is provided and maintained by professional engineering staff. This equipment includes modern radar facilities, extensive navigation aids for the routing of aircraft and instrument landing systems to guide aircraft on to the runway under the direction of air traffic control.

All the CAA's air traffic controllers undergo some four years of training before being qualified to operate in ail control positions. They have to pass written, practical and oral examinations in basic air traffic control and in the special procedures of the unit in which they are employed. After qualifying, they continue to be subject to a process of continuous checking by a local competency examiner. If at any time the local competency examiner is not fully satisfied with a controller's work that controller may be withdrawn and subjected to retraining and reexamination. Such retraining and re-examination invariable occurs in the event of any incident that has called the controller's competence seriously into question.

Mandatory reporting procedures ensure that any shortcomings in personnel, operations or equipment are brought to the attention of the CAA for remedial action. In particular, the mandatory reporting procedures for airmisses include full investigation by the joint airmiss working group. This group includes independent representatives of pilots and aircraft operators, and they assess the risk and make recommendations. The accidents investigation branch has the right whenever it thinks appropriate to undertake its own investigation.