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The Worlds’ Deadliest Plane Crash – At The Tenerife

Written by Saarthak Jain, a grade 9 student.

It seemed to be a normal day in Tenerife, a small island in Spain, but March 27, 1977 was anything but normal…

By I Kid You Not , in Did You Know Facts to Know , at May 19, 2020 Tags: , , , , , ,

Written by Saarthak Jain, a grade 9 student.

The Tenerife Crash was one of the deadliest crashes in history, which killed 583 people and seriously injured the remaining 63.

How did it happen?

It seemed to be a normal day in Tenerife, a small island in Spain, but March 27, 1977 was anything but normal. Flight were being diverted to Los Rodeos Airport, and included in these were two flights – KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736. It was a bust day at the airport and it was also very foggy.  Both these were Boeing 747s, carrying 234 and 380 passengers and crew respectively. There were patches of thick fog were on the airfield and visibility was low.

These two flights were, like many other, stuck at the Tenerife airport. They were already delayed by many hours. The airport of Tenerife was continuously attempting to create routes to cut time and try and get every flight up back up in the sky.  

The KLM and PAN AM flight were both told to taxi. The PAN AM flight was told to exit the runway halfway but the KLM flight was told to align with runway and wait for further instructions.

Now the factors that lead to this deadly crash were not one, but many 

  1. The weather – the weather in Tenerife is known to change quickly. The time during this, fog clouds had come up to the airport, making the visibly for pilots almost zero. 
  2. The PAN AM pilot : The cockpit crew consisted of captain Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten, age 50, first officer Klaas Meurs, age 42, and flight engineer Willem Schreuder, age 48. They all had a proper licences, but not good visibly in the fog. They were asked by the airport to exit the runway halfway, but the crew did not see its the and continued on the runway without stopping or talking to the air traffic controller 
  3. The KLM pilot : At the time of the accident, Veldhuyzen van Zanten was  KLM’s chief flight instructor. He was in a hurry to take off and started the take off procedure without confirmation with the air traffic control, even when the PAN AM flight was on the runway.
  4. The air traffic control: the air traffic control could not see the runway and the planes because of the fog.                                        
  5. Communication: the communication was a problem, as all the planes were using radio communications on the same frequency, so if more than 2 people spoke on it, it created a buffering sound and messages could not be sent. When the air traffic control told the KLM flight to take off, the KLM replied as they had already started but the PAN AM flight also spoke at the same time saying they were on the runway. As they all spoke at the time no one heard these messages leading to the fatal collision. 

As the KLM flight started the takeoff, and the PAN AM flight was still on the runway. The flight started to speed on the runway, and by the time the captain saw the PAN AM flight though the fog, it was too late and the plane could not stop at that speed. The PAN AM  crew tried to exit the runway as fast as possible, but before it could the KLM flight was already too close. It led to a deadly collision.

The blast killed the passengers and crew within seconds and the whole runway was in flames. 583 people died and 63 survived. No one could forget this day when the centuries worst on land collision happened.

Written by Saarthak Jain, a grade 9 student.

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