In December, the National Transportation Safety Board faulted the Federal Aviation Administration for contributing to the January 2000 crash of an Alaska Airlines jet that killed 88. The indictment of the FAA was not the first. In 1997, the safety board held the agency partly responsible for a 1996 crash in which 110 died when a ValuJet plane plummeted into the Florida Everglades.
Now a two-year USA TODAY investigation concludes that the FAA might have played a role in yet another airline disaster — a 1998 crash that claimed 229 lives when a Swissair jumbo jet plunged into the Atlantic Ocean.
In all three tragedies, the FAA botched its paramount mission: to make sure that those inspecting, maintaining and modifying commercial airliners do their jobs properly.