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Literary Openings, Gadgets and News in Nigeria | Duketundesblog: Deadliest Accident in Aviation History 'The Tenerife Collision'

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Deadliest Accident in Aviation History 'The Tenerife Collision'

Dear DTB readers, I decided to do this post because of the recent crashes in the aviation industry in the past two weeks, from the BA's plane failed landing gear at OR Tambo International airport in South Africa to the crash Russian passenger jet that crashed in Sinai killing all 224 on board-the latest being the crash of another Russian plan in Sudan.

The Deadliest accident in aviation History: Just like every other day, everything seems fine on Sunday, March 27, 1977 at Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport) on the Spanish island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Island until a bomb explosion at Gran Canaria Airport and a threat of a second bomb prompted authorities to divert flights to Los Rodeos Airport. Among the diverted flights were KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 - the two aircraft involved in the ground collision with a total fatalities of 583 and total survivors 61 making it the deadliest accident in aviation industry.

For both planes, Tenerife was an unscheduled stop. Their destination was Gran Canaria International Airport (also known as Las Palmas Airport or Gando Airport), serving Las Palmas on the nearby island of Gran Canaria. Both are in the Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain located in the Atlantic Ocean off the southwest coast of Morocco.

Pan Am Flight 1736 had originated at Los Angeles International Airport, with an intermediate stop at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The aircraft was a Boeing 747-121, registration N736PA, named Clipper Victor. Of the 380 passengers (mostly of retirement age, but including two children), 14 had boarded in New York, where the crew was also changed. The new crew consisted of Captain Victor Grubbs, first officer Robert Bragg, and flight engineer George Warns; there were 13 other crew members. This aircraft had operated the inaugural 747 commercial flight on January 22, 1970.

KLM Flight 4805, a charter flight for Holland International Travel Group, had arrived from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the Netherlands. Its captain was Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten, KLM's chief flying instructor. The first officer was Klaas Meurs and the flight engineer was Willem Schreuder. The aircraft was a Boeing 747-206B.

After the threat at Gran Canaria International airport had been contained, authorithies reopened the airport..Air traffic control (ATC) cleared KLM plane to backtaxi or backtrack and prepare for takeoff because Tenerife is a small airport with only one runway and the Pan Am Flight to follow suit but to exit the runway at third taxi way (C-3), along the line weather condition became poor that ATC could not see the two plane and the airport didn't have ground radar so they have to rely on radio communication to pin-point location of the aircrafts.

As a result of poor visibility, the Pan Am were still unable to locate the exit, when KLM thought captain tought he had an all clear to take off..the Pan Am crew saw the KLM approaching at take off speed so the crew applied full power to the throttles and took a sharp left turn towards the grass in an attempt to avoid a collision. By the time the KLM pilots saw the Pan Am, they were already traveling too fast to stop. In desperation the pilots prematurely rotated the aircraft and attempted to clear the Pan Am by climbing away, causing a severe tailstrike for 22 m (72 ft).

The KLM was within 100 m (330 ft) of the Pan Am when it left the ground. Its nose gear cleared the Pan Am, but the engines, lower fuselage and main landing gear struck the upper right side of the Pan Am's fuselage at approximately 140 knots (260 km/h; 160 mph), ripping apart the center of the Pan Am jet almost directly above the wing. The right side engines crashed through the Pan Am's upper deck immediately behind the cockpit.

The KLM plane remained briefly airborne following the collision, but the impact with the Pan Am had sheared off the outer left engine, caused significant amounts of shredded materials to be ingested by the inner left engine, and damaged the wings. The KLM aircraft immediately went into a stall, rolled sharply, and hit the ground at a point approximately 150 m (500 ft) past the collision, sliding a further 300 m (1,000 ft) down the runway. The full load of fuel, which had caused the earlier delay, ignited immediately in a large fireball that could not be subdued for several hours.

One of the 61 survivors of the Pan Am flight, John Coombs of Haleiwa, Hawaii, said that sitting in the nose of the plane probably saved his life: "We all settled back, and the next thing an explosion took place and the whole port side, left side of the plane, was just torn wide open."

Both airplanes were destroyed. All 234 passengers and 14 crew members in the KLM plane died, as did 326 passengers and nine crew members aboard the Pan Am, primarily due to the fire and explosions resulting from the fuel spilled and ignited in the impact. The other 56 passengers and five crew members aboard the Pan Am aircraft survived, including the captain, first officer and flight engineer. Most of the survivors on the Pan Am walked out onto the intact left wing, the side away from the collision, through holes in the fuselage structure. The Pan Am's engines were still running for a few minutes after the accident despite First Officer Bragg's intention to turn them off. The top part of the cockpit, where the engine switches were located, had been destroyed in the collision, and all control lines were severed, leaving no method for the flight crew to control the aircraft's systems. Survivors waited for rescue, but it did not come promptly, as the firefighters were initially unaware that there were two aircraft involved and were concentrating on the KLM wreck some distance away in the thick fog and smoke. Eventually, most of the survivors on the wings dropped to the ground below.

Reference: Wikipedia


  1. It's truly the deadliest accident in aviation history. So much death in the industry lately. May God continue to protect His own

  2. May God protect us all. The ugly incidents are becoming more frequent.


    1. Actually, they are not! The bigest risk we take when you fly is driving to the airport.

  3. We really need God protection. It is well

  4. I have phobia for plane nowadays


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