4 December 2002

BA launches inquiry after rudder part falls off Concorde

By Nick Mead, PA News

British Airways has launched an urgent investigation after part of a rudder fell off one of its Concordes during a London to New York flight.

The pilots on the flight last Wednesday said they felt a continuous vibration as the plane approached New York's JFK airport.

After a normal landing, an inspection found part of the lower of four rudders on the tail fin was missing, a BA spokeswoman said today.

None of the 96 passengers and nine crew on board flight BA 001 was injured.

The spokeswoman said: "A small part of one of the lower rudders became detached during the flight. The aircraft flew safely throughout the flight and landed safely.

"The missing part did not affect the safety of the aircraft. At no stage during the flight were the passengers or aircraft in any danger," she said.

Air accident investigators told the BBC they were concerned last week's incident was "very similar" to a previous one in 1998. It is the fourth incident to affect Concorde over the past six weeks.

A New York-bound BA Concorde was forced to turn back to London after an engine had to be shut down on 3 November.

A warning light came on in the cockpit indicating a problem with one of the four engines. The engine was shut down by the crew and the plane, with 82 passengers on board, landed safely at Heathrow.

On 30 October, a BA Concorde flying from New York to London had suffered three tiny cracks on the outer layers of one of the cabin windows.

This caused the plane to slow slightly - although still flying at supersonic speed - with the aircraft arriving 40 minutes late in London.

"There was no emergency landing necessary in the engine incident and the passengers were in no danger," said a BA spokeswoman.

In another incident in November, engine failure forced an Air France Concorde to descend thousands of feet, causing panic among the passengers on board.

BA and Air France Concordes returned to passenger services on 7 November last year following the crash of an Air France Concorde near Paris in July 2000 in an accident which claimed 113 lives.