Puzzle Over Mid-Atlantic Collision

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WASHINGTON: Air space over the Atlantic isn't exactly overcrowed. So how on Earth did two planes manage to run into each other there? TIME’s Pentagon Correspondent Mark Thompson says Sunday’s collision between a U.S. military transport plane and a German military passenger plane off Africa’s southwestern coast is a puzzle. “This plainly shouldn’t happen," says Thompson. These aircraft have pretty good navigation systems allowing them to scan the skies for other planes. It would be surprising to find that both were flying blind."

  • Undoubtedly, it was a bad weekend for the Air Force, which also decided to ground its fleet of F-117 stealth fighters until it ascertains the cause of Sunday’s crash in Baltimore — in which four people were injured. Thompson suspects that a maintenance error might have caused the Baltimore crash: “It was disconcerting to see that aileron disconnecting — pieces shouldn’t just fly off planes. If I had to bet right now, I think they’ll find the problem was with maintenance rather than with the pilot or the design.”