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Tiny crack grounds Concorde

Fissures in 7 craft; British Airways says passengers not endangered

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LONDON — British Airways said Monday it had detected cracks in the wings of its seven supersonic Concorde aircraft — causing one plane to be grounded — but insisted there was no danger to passengers.

The airline said the cracks had been detected some months ago, but all seven aircraft had remained in service until the problem was found to have worsened in one plane last week.

"We detected a few months ago some cracks in all our Concordes in a rear spar which stretches across the plane towards the back of the wing," a British Airways spokeswoman told Reuters.

Each of the cracks was around 2 inches long, the spokeswoman said.

"We immediately told the manufacturer, Aerospatiale, and the Civil Aviation Authority," she said.

"They came and looked at the cracks, which are in a non-safety critical part of the aircraft, and allowed us to continue flying."

Routine monitoring with ultra-sonic equipment revealed last week that the crack in one aircraft had grown by around 0.63 inches.

"As soon as that was detected the aircraft was withdrawn from service and we informed the manufacturer," said the spokeswoman.

British Airways said passengers had not been at risk, and there was no danger posed by the cracks in the six aircraft that continued to fly.

Aerospatiale, a French company that is now part of the European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. EAD.PA., is working on a repair kit for the grounded aircraft, which the airline hopes to return to service by September.

The spokeswoman said British Airways' twice-daily return Concorde flights between London and New York should be unaffected, although she could not rule out disruption if more aircraft had to be withdrawn from service.

"At the moment none of the other cracks have enlarged," she said.

Concorde, an Anglo-French project that entered service in the mid-1970s, is the world's only supersonic passenger aircraft. There are a total of 13 in service, seven with British Airways and six with Air France.