I was disappointed to read the front-page article "Families Tell of Foreboding" {Aug. 19}. The subtitle "I'm Afraid This Plane Will Crash" was taken from words spoken by one of the Northwest Airline crash victims and recollected by his mother. The attempt to throw an eerie cast of premonition on the flight is not the kind of journalism we should expect from The Post.

A few paragraphs into the story, it was revealed that the passenger had a history of fear of flying. As a fearful flyer myself, I was very jittery when I flew out of Detroit the day after the crash, yet I was annoyed to see such selective "reporting."

The family of one victim confessed, "Now that we've talked about it . . . there was strangeness to the day. . . . He said goodbye several times." Anyone who has ever been part of a tragedy will tell you the same thing -- not because the day was strange but because we have a desire to believe we could have averted tragedy if only we had been attuned to our emotions. But an increasing national paranoia will not make air travel safer.

The probable cause of the Northwest accident -- that the crew forgot to turn the wing flaps down -- recalls the cause of the Challenger explosion. Both incidents make us realize that technology is only as sound as the humans who are responsible for its use. The people who expressed foreboding as they boarded Flight 255 had reasons for their fear. The news has been full of reports of accidents and near accidents in the air -- enough to make even a veteran flyer somewhat anxious. But we shouldn't cloud this tragedy in parapsychological emotionalism. We don't want people consulting palm readers and astrological forecasts to tell them when flying is safe. Irrational fear needs to be focused toward rational demands for more rigorous safety standards. MARGY WEBSTER Alexandria

Given the range in feelings and fears among the general population concerning air travel, I would imagine that several passengers on any large plane have feelings of foreboding before any given flight. For this reason, I found the story of passengers' premonitions before the tragic crash of Flight 255 lacking in substance. Perhaps it belonged on an inside page or in the Style section. It certainly did not belong on The Post's front page. PAUL L. HERTZ Springfield

The origins of the current American skyway roulette are traceable not only to airline deregulation but to Ronald Reagan and the air-traffic controllers. Several years back he showed courage in firing thousands of them when they broke the law. The other side of the coin, however, is his stubbornness and foolishness in refusing to rehire many, if not most, of them on a merciful basis -- possibly with penalties added for their rebellion.

Mr. Reagan stupidly threw away a great wealth of human and technical ability, resulting in airway fear and terror for millions that will take a long time to repair. It is not too late to rehire the best of those traffic controllers. ALLAN J. GELBIN Charlottesville

When a football referee makes a disputed call, instant replay is consulted. When the Challenger space shuttle exploded miles above Earth, photo images helped to pinpoint the cause of the disaster. When I enter a bank, the transaction is filmed. Why not record takeoffs and landings at major airports? STEWART A. KOHL Washington