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The Tenerife airport disaster occurred on 27 March 1977, when two Boeing 747 passenger jets collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport[1] (now Tenerife North Airport) on the Spanish island of Tenerife.[2][3] The collision occurred when KLM Flight 4805 initiated its takeoff run while Pan Am Flight 1736 was still on the runway. The impact and resulting fire killed everyone on board KLM 4805 and most of the occupants of Pan Am 1736, with only 61 survivors in the front section of the aircraft.[2][3] Resulting in 583 fatalities, the disaster is the deadliest accident in aviation history.

Quick facts: Accident, Date, Summary, Site, Total fataliti...
Tenerife airport disaster
KLM Flight 4805 · Pan Am Flight 1736
Wreckage of the KLM aircraft on the runway at Los Rodeos
Accident
Date27 March 1977
SummaryRunway collision in fog
Site
Los Rodeos Airport
(now Tenerife North Ciudad de La Laguna Airport)
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
28°28′53.94″N 16°20′18.24″W
Total fatalities583
Total injuries61
Total survivors61
First aircraft

PH-BUF, the KLM Boeing 747-206B
involved in the accident
TypeBoeing 747-206B
NameRijn ("Rhine")
OperatorKLM Royal Dutch Airlines
IATA flight No.KL4805
ICAO flight No.KLM4805
Call signKLM 4805
RegistrationPH-BUF
Flight originAmsterdam Airport Schiphol
Amsterdam, Netherlands
DestinationGran Canaria Airport
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Occupants248
Passengers234
Crew14
Fatalities248
Injuries0
Survivors0
Second aircraft

N736PA, the Pan Am Boeing 747-121
involved in the accident
TypeBoeing 747-121
NameClipper Victor
OperatorPan American World Airways
IATA flight No.PA1736
ICAO flight No.PAA1736
Call signCLIPPER 1736
RegistrationN736PA
Flight originLos Angeles International Airport
Los Angeles, United States
StopoverJohn F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, U.S.
DestinationGran Canaria Airport
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Occupants396
Passengers380
Crew16
Fatalities335
Injuries61
Survivors61
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A bomb set off by the Canary Islands Independence Movement at Gran Canaria Airport had caused many flights to be diverted to Los Rodeos, including the two aircraft involved in the accident. The airport quickly became congested with parked airplanes blocking the only taxiway and forcing departing aircraft to taxi on the runway instead. Patches of thick fog were drifting across the airfield, so visibility was greatly reduced for pilots and the control tower.[2][3]

The subsequent investigation by Spanish authorities concluded that the primary cause of the accident was the KLM captain's decision to take off in the mistaken belief that a takeoff clearance from air traffic control (ATC) had been issued.[4] Dutch investigators placed a greater emphasis on a mutual misunderstanding in radio communications between the KLM crew and ATC,[5] but ultimately KLM admitted that their crew was responsible for the accident and the airline agreed to financially compensate the relatives of all of the victims.[6]

The disaster had a lasting influence on the industry, highlighting in particular the vital importance of using standardized phraseology in radio communications. Cockpit procedures were also reviewed, contributing to the establishment of crew resource management as a fundamental part of airline pilots' training.[7]

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