Concorde's Stellar Safety Record

ByABC News
July 25, 2000, 6:00 PM

July 26 -- After 27 years in service, the worlds only supersonic commercial aircraft has also proven to be one of the worlds safest, aviation experts say.

Until Tuesdays crash of an Air France Concorde near Paris that killed 100 passengers, nine crew members and four people on the ground, the fleet of super-airliners had never been involved in a fatal accident.

That fleet, however, is small and specialized until this week, there were 12 Concordes flying under the colors of two airlines, Air France and British Airways.

Originally designed and built in the 1960s and 1970s, and updated over the years, the aircraft are expected to keep flying through much of this decade. British Airways has indicated it could fly its Concordes at least until 2010. Air France says its aircraft could have at least seven more years of service.

Air France Concorde F-BTSC had undergone heavy routine maintenance less than a week before it crashed, according to the airline.

The Concorde is and remains one of the safest aircraft in the air to date, says Chris Yates, editor of Janes Airport Security Standards & Technology.

In terms of aeronautical design, its one of the leading designs of civil aircraft, he says. No one out there has ever come up with a civil design like Concorde.

Some Recent Troubles

Like any aircraft, the Concorde has had some trouble over the years.

In 1979, one of the tires of a British Airways Concorde burst on landing. The incident led to a design modification.

On Monday, the airline grounded one of its Concordes after detecting cracks in the wings of its seven aircraft. Officials said there was no danger to passengers.

The cracks had actually been detected months prior, but the fleet stayed in service. The one plane was grounded after the cracks were found to have worsened in it.

Aging aircraft structures will always develop cracks, says ABCNEWS aviation analyst John Nance. The problem is not the presence of cracks, but where they are and how deep they run. In this case, British Air indicated the fractures were structurally insignificant.