LOS ANGELES -- A fatal airplane collision that initially seemed to be the result of a mistake by a harried air traffic controller might have also involved long-standing problems, including the use of unreliable radar equipment and a chronic shortage of air traffic controllers, federal investigators said yesterday.
An air traffic controller handling planes landing and taking off on Runway 24L at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday apparently forgot she had told a SkyWest commuter airplane awaiting takeoff to wait at the center of the runway about a minute before she told a USAir Boeing 737 it could land on the same strip. The two collided, killing 34 people, the last of whom -- USAir passenger Richard D. Ronk, 33 -- died yesterday from burns.
But investigators said yesterday that they had turned up information suggesting that these factors might have played a role:
* Radar equipment used to track the location of taxiing planes was broken the night of the crash and is generally in poor repair. Spare parts are not available at the airport to fix the equipment when it breaks down.