On this day 44 years ago, at Tenerife-North Airport (formerly Los Rodeos), two Boeing 747’s – one KLM, the other Pan Am – crashed on a foggy runway. 583 people were killed in what remains the biggest air disaster in history.
Neither of the planed were supposed to be there, they had both been diverted after a terrorist incident at Gran Canaria Airport,
The Canary Islands Independence Movement (CIIM), also known as the Movement for the Independence and Self-determination of the Canaries Archipelago is a defunct independent movement organization that had a radio station in Algiers and resorted to violence in attempts to force the Spanish government to create an independent state in the Canary Islands.
CIIM terrorists bombed a florist shop in Las Palmas Airport on 27 March 1977, seriously injuring 8 people. Members then threatened to explode a second bomb in the airport, forcing police to shut down air traffic while they searched for the bomb.A small bomb was detonated in the Canary Islands Airport, Spain only injuring one person.
However because of this all flights flying in to the Las Palmas Airport.
KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 had both been redirected to Tenerife.Both of the 747′ s a were charters. Pan Am had come from Los Angeles, after a stopover in New York, And the KLM boeing from its home base in Amsterdam.
The two aircrafts were then both on the third runway when the incident occurred. The two flights both taxied onto the runway, with the KLM plane told to hold their position with the Pan Am flight told to follow.
The incident then occurred after the KLM flight took off without proper clearance from the airport.
It wasn’t the only problem, as the Pan Am flight also missed the turning off the runway after mistaking the exit C4 for exit C3 in the foggy conditionsThe KLM flight started to take off despite the runway not being clear and was unable to see the Pan Am flight until the last minute.
A recording from the Pan Am flight heard the captain exclaimed: “G******, that son-of-a-b**** is coming!” with the first officer then yelling: “Get off! Get off! Get off!”.
Despite the Pan Am plane attempting to turn off the runway while the KLM flight pulled up, the two planes then collided on the ground.
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 in the collision. All 248 passengers and crew aboard the KLM plane died, as did 335 passengers and crew aboard the Pan Am plane, primarily due to the fire and explosions resulting from the fuel spilled and ignited in the impact. The other 61 passengers and crew 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.
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