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Ground Perils a Constant Concern : Safety: 'Potential for catastrophe' has long been seen because of traffic at L.A. airport. Hundreds of near-misses have been reported on runways throughout the nation.


Separating the traffic on the ground is the responsibility of so-called "ground controllers" in the tower. They direct the movement of planes along the airport taxiways and on the ramp areas surrounding the passenger gates.

Sabotage. This has been a grave concern of late because of the Persian Gulf War. But an FBI spokesman said there was no evidence of terrorism in the crash.

"There's no indication of any foul play," said agent Fred Reagan of the Los Angeles FBI office. "No threats were involved. We believe this was accidental."


A chronology of Southern California's worst air disasters: Dec. 7, 1987: A former USAir ticket agent smuggles a gun aboard a PSA BAe-146 jetliner, kills a fellow passenger and attacks the cockpit crew, after which the jetliner crashes near Paso Robles. All 46 people aboard die. USAir had recently bought PSA.

Aug. 31, 1986: An Aeromexico DC-9 and a Piper PA-28 collide over Cerritos, resulting in 82 deaths, the worst accident involving flights to Los Angeles International Airport.

Aug. 24, 1984: A Beechcraft on a training flight hits a Wings West twin-engine propjet northwest of San Luis Obispo, killing 17.

Sept. 25, 1978: A Pacific Southwest Airlines Boeing 727 and a Cessna 172 collide over San Diego, killing 144 people, the worst air disaster in California.

March 1, 1978: During takeoff from Los Angeles International, a Honolulu-bound Continental Airlines DC-10 tips on one wing when several of its tires blow out. Its fuel tanks rupture and fuel ignites. Four people die and seven are injured.

Jan. 9, 1975: A Cessna 150 collides with a Golden West Airlines Dehavilland Twin Otter over Whittier, killing 14.

Jan. 18, 1969: A United Airlines Boeing 727 plunges into the Pacific Ocean near Marina del Rey, killing 37.

Jan. 13, 1969: A Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) DC-8, on a landing approach, crashes eight miles out from Los Angeles International into the Pacific, breaking in half, killing 15. Thirty people survive in a portion that remains afloat.

June 25, 1965: An Air Force C-135 carrying 72 Marines and a crew of 12 crashes into a mountain within a minute after takeoff from El Toro Marine Base. All 84 aboard die.

Feb. 1, 1958: A Military Air Transport Service DC-6 collides with a Navy P-2V Neptune over Norwalk, killing 48.

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