Hercules Aircraft (Fuel Tanks)

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3 December 1969.

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Photo of Mr Michael McNair-Wilson Mr Michael McNair-Wilson , Walthamstow East 12:00, 3 December 1969

asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent the fuel tanks fitted to the Royal Air Force C.130 Hercules aircraft have suffered corrosion; what is the cost; what action is being taken; and at what estimated cost.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

The fuel tanks of virtually all R.A.F. Hercules have suffered some degree of corrosion. The extent of the damage varies widely. In a few aircraft replacement of part of the wing structure is likely to be needed. All the aircraft affected will be repaired over the next year. To make good the loss of transport capacity while repairs are being carried out, some Argosies will continue in service longer than planned.

The cost of repairs cannot yet be precisely estimated but is likely to be about £¾ million.

Photo of Mr Michael McNair-Wilson Mr Michael McNair-Wilson , Walthamstow East

Was any advice given to the R.A.F. by the Lockheed Aircraft Company about this corrosion problem? If its advice was given, why was it not followed; and if it was not followed, whose decision was that?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

As regards our relations with Lockheed's, we bought this aircraft through the United States Air Force and we are in contact with it about the contractual position. Perhaps it would not be right for me to comment further.

The Royal Air Force has for some time used a fuel additive as an icing inhibitor for aircraft liable to icing, and this additive inhibits fungal growth. In view of the special lining of the integral fuel tanks, it was not at first thought necessary to incur the cost of using this additive to check fungal growth in all Hercules aircraft.

Photo of Mr Robert Howarth Mr Robert Howarth , Bolton East

Who designed and produced these tanks? Were they made in America or in this country?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

These are integral tanks which are part of the structure of the aeroplane and part and parcel of the aircraft which we bought from the United States.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

The hon. Gentleman has not answered the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson). Was any advice given as to how this matter should be dealt with? If so, what action was taken on that advice?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

Whether the advice came from Lockheed's or the United States Air Force is not relevant. What is relevant is the judgment which the Royal Air Force exercised, with or without advice. I will certainly look into whether advice was given. In view of the special lining which these tanks contain, it was, unfortunately, deemed not necessary.