VETERAN CORPORATE RAIDER CARL C. ICAHN, who won control last year of Trans World Airlines, is proposing to buy USX Corp., formerly U.S. Steel Corp. Perhaps because Mr. Icahn looks something like a larger version of Mel Brooks, or maybe because securities sales people need to have a sense of humor to work in such a hectic environment, whatever reason, jokes are fast and furious concerning what happens when USX is merged into TWA. The best response we've heard to date is: You get a steel turkey that can't get off the ground.

In a less humorous vein, USX probably could do a lot worse in having Mr. Icahn take it over. Although we, like most of those who follow transportation closely, were somewhat skeptical concerning Mr. Icahn's ability to manage a major airline, he so far has proven to be just what that ailing airline needed. He not only provided TWA with an infusion of cash, but he was able to obtain a labor agreement that kept costs at a level at which the company could make money (albeit with some 2,000 stewardess out of work). Perhaps even more important, he let qualified airline management continue to handle the operations of the company with minimum interference from himself.

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