The 2nd worst commercial airline disaster in history occured on March 27, 1977 between KLM Flight 4805 and Pan American Flight 1736 at Tenerife's Las Rodeos Airport. Normally, all incoming international flights into the Canary Islands used the larger, and more sufficent Las Palmas Airport on Gran Canaria, however, at 1:15 PM a bomb exploded in a florist's shop in the Las Palmas passenger terminal. Although only 8 people were injured (Thanks in part to a call 15 minutes before the explosion), a militant group from Algeria clamed responsiblity and hinted at the possiblity of a second bomb within the airport. As a result, the Spanish airport administration was forced to shutdown the airport.
Pan American World Airways Boeing 747 N736PA (Clipper Victor)
A charter flight from Los Angeles, the Pan Am flight arrived for a landing at Las Palmas Airport approximately 30 minutes after the bomb exploded. Captain Victor Grubbs, sensing from the air traffic controller's instructions that they were expecting Las Palmas to reopen shortly, asked to remain in a holding pattern until then. His request was subsequently denied and 1736 was forced to land at Los Rodeos (all passengers remained in the plane.) When Las Palmas did reopen, the Pan Am flight was unable to taxi, for KLM Flight 4805 was refueling and blocked the runway for more than an hour (you can "hear" their irritation in the transcript).
KLM Boeing 747-206B PH-BUF Rijn (Rhine River)
A charter flight operated on behalf of Holland International Travel Group for a trip to the Canary Islands. The KLM Captain, Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zantent, a training captain, who had taught nearly every other KLM 747 pilot, but hardly flew himself. Upon arrival at Los Rodeos, van Zantent, not only had to deal with weary passengers (who were let off after a while), but possible prosecution once he returned to the Netherlands since KLM pilots' discretion over extending their crews' continuous hours of service was no longer allowed (i.e., If they waited any longer they were bound by Dutch law to be grounded for a rest). Captain van Zantent, decided to refuel the plane, causing a massive backlog, as the only way to refuel was via a fuel tanker.
Get off! Get off!
By the time the refueling was complete, it was 4:26 PM and the fog had reduced visibility at the airport to as little as 300 meters. Two minutes later the crew asked for and received permission to backtrack down runway 30 where they would exit on the third taxiway and onto Runway 12 and then turn at the end of Runway 12 back onto Runway 30 for takeoff.
As the Pan Am flight began its taxi down Runway 30, the air traffic controller (ATC) ordered it to leave on the 3rd taxiway. Confusion spread among the Pan Am crew, as it ended up passing the 3rd taxiway, and proceeded to the 4th (which inquiries into the disaster state that it was probably the intended one since it didn't require a 90+ turn).
At this time the KLM flight had reached the end of runway 30 and an anxious Captain van Zantent did began to accelerate forward. First Officer Klaus Meurs sensed that something was not right, and van Zantent stopped as Meurs asked for authorization. The ATC fully believed that the KLM crew was refering to the fact that they were in takeoff position and awaiting clearance at the end of the runway and gave the following message, "OK. Stand-by for take-off. I will call you."
Unfortunately, both the ATC and Pan Am were operating on the same frequency and the KLM crew only recieved the "OK." An already anxious van Zantent then proceded forward. Only at some 200m did van Zantent see the Pan Am jet and attempted to take-off resulting in a tailscrape. It became airborne, sheared off the top of some of the Pan Am jet's fuselage, and crashed some 500 feet away, and all onboard perished. As for the Pan Am passengers and crew, 70 passengers were killed instantly when the impact ignited the fuselage, which promptly burned down to the landing gear wells. Nine passengers died later of injuries sustained in the accident, and most of the Pan Am crew survived.
Afterwards, there were 3 seperate inquires from all 3 nations involved. One by the Dutch, the Americans, and another by the Spanish. Most of it was a blame game, with the Dutch blaming the Americans for not listening to instructions, the Americans blamed the Dutch for not waiting for clearance, etc. It appears that the general reason for the accident was this: The Pan Am crew was confused on which taxiway to run, and Captain van Zantent (the whole thing about being prosecuted doesn't appeal to anyone) was extremely eager to take off, leading him to jump to conclusions when the transmissions became fuzzy. Possibly the saddest thing is that the KLM jet almost missed the Pan Am jet on take-off.
The Tenerife Airport Disaster left 583 dead.
Transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorders
PA RT: Radio Transmission Pan Am First Officer
APP: Tenerife tower
PA CAM 1: Cockpit Area Mike Pan Am, Captain
PA CAM 2: Cockpit Area Mike Pan Am, First Officer
PA CAM 3: Cockpit Area Mike Pan Am, Flight Engineer
KLM RT: KLM Radio Transmission
KLM CAM 1: KLM cockpit Area Mike, Captain
KLM CAM 2: KLM cockpit Area Mike, First Officer
KLM CAM 3: KLM cockpit Area Mike, Flight Engineer
1701:57.0.......PA RT: Tenerife the Clipper one seven three six.
1702:01.8.......APP: Clipper one seven three six Tenerife.
1702:03.6.......PA RT: Ah- We were instructed to contact you and also to taxi down the runway, is that correct?
1702:08.4.......APP: Affirmative, taxi into the runway and -ah leave the runway third, third to your left, [background conversation in the tower].
1702:16.4.......PA RT: Third to the left, O.K.
1702:18.4.......PA CAM 3: Third he said.
1702:20.6l.......APP: ...ird one to your left.
1702:21.9.......PA CAM 1: I think he said first.
1702:26.4.......PA CAM 2: I'll ask him again.
1702:32.2.......PA CAM 2: Left turn.
1702:33.1.......PA CAM 1: I don't think they have take-off minimums anywhere right now.
1702:39.2.......PA CAM 1: What really happened over there today?
1702:41.6.......PA CAM 4: They put a bomb in the terminal, Sir, right where the check-in counters are.
1702:46.6.......PA CAM 1: Well we asked them if we could hold and -uh- I guess you got the word, we landed here ...
1702:49.8.......APP: KLM four eight zero five how many taxiway -ah- did you pass?
1702:55.6KLM RT: I think we just passed Charlie four now.
1702:59.9 APP: O.K. ... at the end of the runway make one eighty and report -ah- ready -ah- for ATC clearance background conversation in the tower
1703:09.3 PA CAM 2: The first one is a ninety degree turn.
1703:11.0 PA CAM 1: Yeah, O.K.
1703:12.1 PA CAM 2: Must be the third ... I'll ask him again.
1703:14.2 PA CAM 1: O.K.
1703:16.6 PA CAM 1: We could probably go in it's ah ...
1703:19.1 PA CAM 1: You gotta make a ninety degree turn.
1703:21.6 PA CAM 1: Yeah, uh.
1703:21.6.......PA CAM-2: Ninety degree turn to get around this ... this one down here it's a forty five.
1703:29.3.......PA RT: Would you confirm that you want the clipper one seven three six to turn left at the third intersection?
1703:35.1.......PA CAM 1: One, two.
1703:36.4.......APP: The third one, sir, one; two, three, third, third one.
1703:38.3.......PA CAM ?: One two (four).
1703:39.0.......PA CAM 1: Good.
1703:40.1.......PA CAM 1: That's what we need right, the third one.
1703:42.9.......PA CAM 3: Uno, dos, tres.
1703:44.0.......PA CAM 1: Uno, dos, tres.
1703:44.9.......PA CAM 3: Tres - uh - si.
1703:46.5.......PA CAM 1: Right.
1703:47.6 PA CAM 3: We'll make it yet.
1703:47.6.......APP: ...er seven one three six report leaving the runway.
1703:49.1.......PA CAM 2: Wing
1703:50.2.......PA CAM 1: Ten, indicate ten, leading edge lights are green.
1703:54.1.......PA CAM ?: Get
1703:55.0.......PA RT: Clipper one seven three six.
1703:56.5.......PA CAM 2: Yaw damp and instrument
1703:58.6.......PA CAM 1: Ah- Bob we'll get a left one...
1703:59.3.......PA CAM 2: I got a left
1704:00.6.......PA CAM 1: Did
1704.00.9.......PA CAM 2: And -ah- need a right
1704:02.6.......PA CAM 1: I'll give you a little ...
1704:03.8.......PA CAM 2: Put a little aileron in this thing.
1704:05.0.......PA CAM 1: O.K., here's a left and I'll give you a right one right here.
1704:09.7.......PA CAM 1: O.K. right turn right and left yaw.
1704:11.4.......PA CAM 2: Left yaw checks.
1704:12.4.......PA CAM 1: O.K., here's the rudders.
1704:13.6.......PA CAM 1: Here's two left, centre, two right center.
1704:17.8.......PA CAM 2: Checks.
1704:19.2.......PA CAM 2: Controls.
1704:19.6.......PA CAM 1: Haven't seen any yet!
1704:20.3.......PA CAM 2: I haven't either.
1704:21.7.......PA CAM 1: They're free
, the indicators are
1704:24.6.......PA CAM 2: There's one.
1704:25.8.......PA CAM 1: There's one
1704:26.4.......PA CAM 1: That's the ninety degree.
1704:28.5.......PA CAM ?: O.K.
1704:34.5.......PA CAM ?: ??
PA CAM 2: Weight and balance finals?
1704:37.7.......PA CAM: [Sounds similar to stabilizer trim]
1704:37.2.......PA CAM 1: We were gonna put that on four and a half
1704:39.8.......PA CAM 3: We got four and a half and we weigh five thirty four. [sound of stabilizer trim]
1704:44.6.......PA CAM 2: Four
and a half on the right.
1704:46.8.......PA CAM 2: Engineer's taxi
1704:48.4.......PA CAM 3: Taxi check
1704:50.5.......PA CAM 2: Take-off and departure
1704:52.1.......PA CAM 1: O.K., it'll be standard
, we gonna go straight out there till we get thirty five hundred feet then we're gonna make that reversal and go back' out to ... fourteen.
1704:58.2.......APP: ...m eight seven zero
five and clipper one seven ... three six, for your information, the center
line lighting is out of service. APP transmission is readable but slightly broken
1705:05.8.......KLM RT: I copied that
1705:07.7.......PA RT Clipper
one seven three six.
1705:09.6.......PA CAM-1 We got center
line markings...only could be "don't we they count the same thing as...we need eight hundred
meters if you don't have that center line...I read that on the back of this just a while ago
1705:22.0.......PA CAM 1: That's two
1705:23.5 PA CAM 3: Yeh, that's forty-five there.
1705:25.7.......PA CAM 1: Yeh.
1705:26.5 PA CAM 2: That's this one right here.
1705:27.2 PA CAM :1 Yeh, I know.
1705:28.1.......PA CAM 3: O.K.
1705:28.5.......PA CAM 3: Next one is almost a forty-five, huh yeh.
1705:30.6.......PA CAM 1: But it goes...
1705:32.4.......PA CAM 1: Yeh, but it goes ... ahead, I think it's gonna put us on the taxiway.
1705:35.9.......PA CAM 3: Yeah, just a little bit yeh.
1705:39.8.......PA CAM ?: O.K., for sure.
1705:40.0.......PA CAM 2: Maybe he, maybe he counts these, are three.
1705:44.8.......PA CAM ?: I like
1705:44.8.......KLM RT Uh, the KLM...four eight zero five is now ready for take-off...uh and we're waiting for our ATC clearance.
1705:53.4.......APP: KLM eight seven * zero five uh you are cleared to the Papa Beacon climb to and maintain flight level nine zero right turn after take-off proceed with heading zero four zero until intercepting the three two five radial from Las Palmas VOR.
1706:09.6.......KLM RT: Ah roger, sir
, we're cleared to the Papa Beacon flight level nine zero, right turn out zero four zero until intercepting the three two five and we're now at take-off.
[RDO and APP communications caused a shrill noise in KLM cockpit - messages not heard by KLM crew.]
ca. 1706:13.......KLM CAM 1: We're going
1706:18.19 APP: OK.
1706:19.3.......PA RT: No .. eh.
1706:20.08.......APP: Stand by for take-off, I will call you.
1706:20.3.......PA RT: And we're still taxiing down the runway, the clipper one seven three six.
1706:19.39 - 1706:23.19.......[PA radio transmission and APP communications caused a shrill noise in KLM cockpit - messages not heard by KLM crew]
1706:25.6.......APP: Roger alpha one seven three six report when runway clear.
1706:29.6.......PA RT: OK, we'll report when we're clear.
APP: Thank you
PA CAM 1: Lets get the hell out of here!
PA CAM 2: Yeh, he's anxious isn't he.
PA CAM 3: Yeh, after he held us up for half an hour. Now he's in a rush.
1706:32.43.......KLM CAM 3: Is he not clear then?
1706:34.1.......KLM CAM 1: What do you say?
1706:34.15.......KLM CAM ?: Yup.
1706:34.7.......KLM CAM 3: Is he not clear that Pan American?
1706:35.7.......KLM-1: Oh yes. [Emphatically
1706:40.......[Pan Am captain
sees landing lights of KLM at approximately 700 meters]
PA CAM 1: There he is...look at him! Goddamn that son-of-a-bitch is coming! Get off! Get off! Get off!
1706:44.......[KLM starts rotation
1706:47.44.......KLM CAM 1: [Scream
[END OF TAPES]