FOR REASONS that scream for a full explanation from those who knew and didn't say anything about it, it's back to the drawing boards -- at an additional cost of perhaps $100 million and another two or three years' wait -- for the proposed new terminal at National Airport. It seems there's a mighty flaw in the design that staff didn't hasten to tell members of the airport authority -- namely, that one of the terminal's three arms would block the air traffic controllers' view of the north end of a runway. The issue isn't whether to fix this -- it's how well to do it. For many long-term reasons, the answer is to go first-class, to shift the terminal to where it belongs, anyway, which is next to the Metro station that serves the place.

The gap between the station and the airport never has made sense -- and all the putt-putt shuttles the authority can muster have never bridged the gap all that efficiently for the subway-to-airline travelers. Any other proposals to patch up the terminal-design error seem to be cheaper but uglier, less efficient and poorer in quality.

The National Airport to be built is not some temporary bus stop or short-term park-and-fly lot. This is about an air terminal to serve the capital city for years to come, a terminal that has needed this modernization for years and that how has the financial capability and regional management to get this done as it should be. The error and apparent failure to confess to it promptly deserve investigation and appropriate action. But correction of the damage should not be cut-and-paste.