asked the Secretary of State for Air whether his attention has been called to the statements in reference to the mode in which the Air Ministry has dealt with Messrs. Shortt Brothers' all-metal aeroplane; whether the said plane has been tested by pilots in the Air Force; what is their opinion upon it; whether any machines have been ordered; and, generally, what is the view of the Ministry in regard to this machine?
My attention has been called to the statements which have appeared in the Press and to which I assume my hon. Friend refers. The history of this case is as follows. This aeroplane was built and exhibited at Olympia by the firm in 1920. It was not designed to meet any particular Service requirement. Nevertheless, with a view to the encouragement of originality and enterprise, it was immediately purchased by the Air Ministry, and, as the structure incorporated certain novelties, the use, in particular, of a certain alloy of aluminium, the aeroplane was in 1921 sent to the Royal Aircraft Establishment to test the suitability of this material to withstand corrosion and vibration. In this connecton, the problem of corrosion (tests of which must necessarily take a considerable time) is one of the greatest importance and is, at the present time, being investigated by a special Sub-Committee of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Pending a Report of this Sub-Committee, and until a satisfactory solution of the problem has been arrived at, it is clearly most undesirable to place a large order for these aeroplanes. It is, therefore, not intended to order any more at present. In answer to the second and third parts of the question, owing to the doubt as to the strength and reliability of the material used, it was not considered desirable to put this aeroplane through full air tests, but permission was granted to a pilot of the Experimental Section to fly it without load and without unnecessary manœuvres. As a result of these modified tests, a favourable report on the behaviour of the aeroplane in the air was received.