The Nation: Fatal Sequence

Nineteen months had passed without a single fatal crash of a scheduled airliner in the U.S., a safety record unprecedented in commercial aviation. But last week, in the inexplicable pattern that seems to govern such disasters, two airliners went down, one on each coast, killing a total of 78 persons. Twenty-eight of them died when an Allegheny Airlines twin jet crashed in a swamp near Connecticut's Tweed-New Haven Airport. Another 50 were killed in the collision of a Hughes Air West DC-9 and a Navy F-4 Phantom jet over California's San Gabriel Mountains.

Both crashes raised ominous and specific questions. Two years...

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