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Tenerife airport disaster
KLM Flight 4805 · Pan Am Flight 1736
Wreckage on the runway
Accident summary
Date March 27, 1977
Summary Runway collision
Place
Los Rodeos Airport
(now Tenerife North Airport)
Tenerife, Canary Islands
Coordinates: 28°28′54″N 16°20′18″W / 28.48165°N 16.3384°W / 28.48165; -16.3384
Total injuries (non-fatal) 61
Total fatalities 583
Total survivors 61
First aircraft

PH-BUF, the KLM Boeing 747-206B
involved in the accident
Type Boeing 747-206B
Name Rijn ("Rhine")
Airline/user KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Registration PH-BUF
Flew from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Netherlands
Flying to Gran Canaria Airport
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Passengers 234
Crew 14
Fatalities 248
Survivors 0
Second aircraft

A Pan Am Boeing 747-121,
similar to the aircraft involved in the accident
Type Boeing 747-121
Name Clipper Victor
Airline/user Pan American World Airways
Registration N736PA
Flew from Los Angeles International Airport
Los Angeles, United States
Stopover John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, U.S.
Flying to Gran Canaria Airport
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Passengers 380
Crew 16
Injuries (non-fatal) 61
Fatalities 335
(326 passengers, 9 crew)
Survivors 61

The Tenerife airport disaster happened on March 27, 1977, when two Boeing 747s collided on the ground of Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport). This crash killed 583 people onboard the two flights.

The crash was caused by many reasons. One reason is that as the KLM captain wanted to takeoff quickly so that he could return to Amsterdam. This made him misunderstand that he was cleared by Air Traffic Controller to takeoff and so he began to take off, eventually crashing into the Pan Am flight. At that time, the Tenerife North Airport did not have ground radar, so the controllers could not know that the KLM flight was taking off.

Another reason was the fog surrounding the airport. The bad weather reduced the visibility, meaning the pilots could not see each other and neither could the controllers see the two planes on the runway. Because of the fog, the pilots only saw each other at the last minute, when they could not have prevented the crash. If there was no fog, the KLM crew would have seen the Pan Am plane on the runway and would not have taken off.

It was the worst crash in the history of aviation.


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