History

The roots of the Group go back to around 1960 and the so-called jet fuel controversy. At that time a number of engineers had started publicly to express their concern over the then increasing use of wide-cut gasoline (JET B) fuel, instead of the previously almost exclusively used kerosene (JET A), in turbine-powered aircraft. Quite independently, aviation pioneer Lord Brabazon was also giving public expression to his concern over this issue.

JET B fuel was developed for sound logistical reasons for use in military aircraft but it is markedly less safe than JET A from the crashworthiness and flight explosion standpoints. It was also cheaper than JET A at some locations and, for this reason, a number of airlines started using it in addition to JET A, taking advantage of the price differential wherever it existed. With the commendable exception of the then Australian Department of Civil Aviation, the world's aviation authorities did nothing to halt this practice.

This adverse trend led to a loose form of collaboration between the engineers and Lord Brabazon in an effort to achieve a successful resolution of the issue. However, in December 1963 there was a catastrophic JET B-related accident to a B707 aeroplane, as a result of which it became evident that a more formal and permanent grouping was desirable to draw attention to this issue and to other aspects of safety which were not being adequately addressed by the aviation industry and its regulatory authorities. To add emphasis to this need, there occurred, just two weeks before the official formation of the Group, a further JET B-related accident to another B707 aeroplane with multiple fatalities. (It is worth recording that this second accident, and the attendant publicity generated by Group members, did lead to a significant reduction, although not complete elimination of the use of JET B).

Thus in December 1964 the Air Safety Group came into being, though sadly without Lord Brabazon who had died earlier that year.

A brief history has been written by J W Rickard and is available to purchase.