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It has been a rough couple of years for the Federal Aviation Administration. Â¿DiscoveredÂ¿ by Congressional committees, consumer groups, and blue-ribbon panels, the agency has come under a degree of public scrutiny that other Government bodies long have endured, but that the FAA managed to sidestep. For years, it operated much like the Federal Bureau of Investigation once did, as the unquestioned authority in its field. Now. its methods, aims, and charter are being challenged. Much of this attention was piqued by two air tragedies Â¿ a midair collision between an airliner and a light plane over San Diego in 1978 and a DC-10 crash in Chicago in 1979. The combined death toll from the accidents was 417 people. Further, there has been a recent series of FAA computer failures that have raised the risk of more midair collisions.