Science: Traffic Control in the Sky

Moving silently across 21-inch radar screens, the dime-sized blips traced the passage of jet aircraft overhead. At electronic consoles shirtsleeved men spoke into pushbutton telephones, scanned slender strips of coded paper punched out by high-speed computers. Thus, in a bombproof building south of Oakland, Calif., the U.S.'s most modern air traffic control center last week went into operation.

The Oakland center was born of disaster: on June 30, 1956 a Trans World Airlines Super Constellation and a United Air Lines DC-7 lumbered blindly into each other over the Grand Canyon, sent 128 passengers and crew members to their deaths, and convinced the...

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