Tenerife airport disaster was the collision between KLM 4805 Boeing 747 and Pan Am 1736 Boeing 747 at Tenerife North Airport on 27 March 1977. It's known as the worst air disaster in history of aviation because of the number of killed - 583.


History of disasterEdit

Terrorist bombEdit

27 March 1977, at 13:15, a bomb exploded on the Las Palmas Airport. On that case, everybody from the terminal was evacuated. Because of the awareness of second bomb, the airport was closed, and every flight with destination GCLP were diverted on small airport of Los Rodeos on Tenerife. Because of that, parking area in Los Rodeos was filled with other planes, diverted from Las Palmas. March the 27, 1977 was Sunday. Only two controllers were on duty that day.

Diversion of flightsEdit

KLM 4805 landed on Los Rodeos Airport at 13:38 and parked at the end of the taxiway short of the Norwegian Boeing 737 Breathens. Later, Boeing 727 Sterling and SATA DC-8 joined the airplanes. At 14:15, Pan Am 1736 landed in the same place.

At first, passengers of KLM flight were not allowed to exit the plane. However, 20 minutes later, everyone was transported to the terminal building by bus. When they went to the terminal, they received cards authorizing them as KLM Flight 4805 passengers. Later (after Las Palmas' reopening), everyone boardet the aircraft except of HINT tour guide - Robina van Lanschot, who decided to stay, because she wanted to see her boyfriend in Santa Cruz because she cheated Death!

Gando reopening and weather problemsEdit

When Gando airport was reopened at about 15:00, Pan Am 1736 called the ground controll and asked for startup clearance. In query, the controller responded that they may have problems with taxiing because of the refueling KLM 4805. Indeed, the fact was if the American pilots wanted to start taxi, they should wait until the KLM will start taxiing. Three other airplanes that were on the airport at this time already departed. First officer Robert Bragg and flight engineer, George Warns went out and they measured the clearance for get around the KLM. Unfortunately, the distance between two aircraft was too small. Pan Am needed only 3.5 meters to clear the KLM aircraft.

About one hour later, Pan Am 1736 crew asked 4805 crew, what time will they be rolling. Dutch pilots responded this will take them 30 minutes because of the refueling. KLM captain, Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten took 55,000 tons of fuel. Flight from Tenerife to Las Palmas should take about 25 minutes, but the KLM captain wanted to have fuel enough to fly not only to Las Palmas, but all the way back to Amsterdam. After all, the captain was worrying because of the many planes, that shall arrive in just reopened Gando airport. He also lost his time awaiting for two children and their parents, that losted in terminal. Now, the thick fog set in and covered the whole aerodrome. In few minutes, the visibility fell to about 300 meters.


KLM 4805 asked for permission to startup and taxi. He was cleared to taxi into the runway 12, and then to change from ground frequency 118.7 on 119.7. Few menutes later, at 17:02, Pan Am 1736 asked for the same and was cleared to do so. At 16:48:14, KLM 4805 called tower and reported, that they require "backtrack" at the end of the runway 30, to take off on runway 30. Tower acknowledged this and told the crew to leave the third taxiway to their left. 33 seconds later, KLM was starting taxiing into the runway 12, and at 16:59:10, controller heard that KLM 4805 is now on the runway. KLM 4805 asked tower if they should turn left at the taxiway C1. Tower responded in negative and said that they should taxi straight ahead and backtrack at the end of runway.

At 17:02, Pan Am 1736 started taxiing. Controller told the American pilots to follow KLM and leave the runway by the third taxiway. The pilots were confused because they didn't know if tower told third or first taxiway, because that two words are quite similar. First officer called the tower and asked for confirmation if the airplane should take the third taxiway. At 17:03:36, controlled replied:

"The third one, sir! One, two, three! Third! The third one!"
Fernando Azcunaga  source

When it was all clear, it turned out that Pan Am missed the number third exit. Because of that, it continued taxiing towards C4, because this taxiway has better rate of turn for Boeing 747.

Take off without permissionEdit

At 17:03:14, KLM 4805 asked controller if the runway centre lights are working. After checking, controller replied to both planes that the lights are out of service. Weather conditions were getting worse. Visibility felt down to about 300 meters. At 17:05:27, KLM 4805 taxed to the end of the runway 12, made a 180 degree turn and now was face to face with American jumbo jet.

9 seconds later, after finishing the takeoff checklist, according to the KLM cockpit voice recorders, captain van Zanten began to apply power to the engines and relasing brakes. At 17:05:41, first officer noticed that his captain doesn't have air traffic control clearance, so he said:

"Wait a minute! We don't have an ATC clearance."
Klaas Meurs  source

Captain van Zanten replied that he knows that and his co-pilot should ask for the clearance. First officer called the tower and reported that KLM 4805 is now ready for takeoff and is waiting for its' ATC clearance. The tower gave the KLM 4805 crew a clearance, that is given mostly before fligths:

"KLM 87... 05, you are cleared to the papa beacon. Climb to and maintain flight level 9-0, right turn after take off, proceed with heading 0-4-0 until intercepting the 3-2-5 radial from Las Palmas VOR."
― Fernando Azcunaga  source

When the first officer was readbacking the clearance, at 17:06:13, captain said We gaan. Check thrust. and again applied full power. The airplane was picking up speed. First officer and flight engineer said no more.

Controller said: OK, and at 17:06:20 (1.89 seconds later), he added Stand-by for take off, I will call you. At the same time, Pan Am pilots heard the conversation in the KLM cockpit and they panicked. Captain yelled No!, and first officer claimed to tower We're still taxiing down the runway!. Unfortunately, because of the interference of first officer's and controller's communications caused a shrill noise (known as a "heterodyne") in the KLM cockpit. The only thing the Dutch captain heard only "OK", so he thought controller gave him clearance for take off. At 17:06:25 controller asked Pan Am 1736 aircraft to report when runway will be clear. First officer advised OK, we'll report when we are clear. Controller said Thank you.

Captain of the KLM was sure that Pan Am cleared the runway. KLM flight engineer, however, heard controller and Pan Am conversation to clear the runway and he was the only person in cockpit that was aware of the danger that second Boeing may still be on runway. He wanted to make sure of that, so he asked captain in Dutch language if Pan American is off, but captain with first officer responded hat he is clear for sure.


At 17:06:43, KLM first officer claimed V1, and both planes saw themselves at approx. 500 m. Pan Am 1736 wanted to clear the runway, so captain of Pan Am applied full throttle and drived into grass, and the Dutch captain wanted only to take off his fully loaded 747, but it was too late. Few seconds before collision, captain van Zanten uttered an explanation, and Pan Am first officer desperately yelled to the captian: Get off! Get off! Get the fuck off!"

At 17:06:50, KLM 4805 collided with Pan Am 1736, shuttering the upper fuselage with its undercarriage. Pan Am burst into flames, and KLM was scrubbed into the runway for 300 meters before he crashed and was burned by flames, caued by fuel. There were no eyewitnesses of the accident.

Impact and post-impactEdit

When both planes saw each other at distance 700 meters about 10 seconds before collision, there was no hope for stopping the KLM, rolling with full thrust at Pan Am. His captain elected to climb the airplane and bypass the American plane. The tail bumper struck the runway, which caused the shower of metallic sparks, whose leave a traces on the runway. KLM 4805 picked up in the last while, but it was too late. The airplane nose missed Pan Am 1736's fuselage, but, witch 140 knots airspeed, the main undercarriage struck the American airplane. The upper fuselage of Pan Am was torn and No. 4 engine of KLM airplane tore the knob just behind flight deck. Both planes burst into flames.

Dutch airplane remained airborne few seconds and slammed into the runway, turned 90 degree with torn engines 150 meters next along the runway. None of fuselage doors were opened since fuel tanks exploded. The whole airplane was engulfed by raging flames.

On board the Pan Am the impacts, smokes and explosions caused terror and turmoil. First officer elected to turn on the anti-fire device on overhead panel, but there were no panel. The flight deck, along with torn upper fuselage, collapsed and felt down to the first class section of the airplane down. Passengers on that section of airplane and crew escaped on the ground with the hole in left side of fuselage. Persones on airplane nose were lucky, because many people sitting on the right side of main deck were killed. Many other passengers were trapped and they wouldn't escape from airplane because of collapsing fuselage parts and got killed by raging fire. Althrough there were fire next to a wings, where engines were starting to turn off, many passengers managed to escape on the ground, jumping from the wing. But then, many people got hurt or got their bones broke because of ground impact. Many others jumped on the ground from rear doors 6,5 meters above ground.

1 minute later, whole evacuation of survivors succeeded. Then, the fire engulfed whole fuselage and those, who didn't make it to escape, wouldn't do that.

Date and place of accidentEdit

The accident took place on Aeropuerto de Tenerife Norte, formerly known as Los Rodeos at latitude 28°28'30N and longitude 16°19'50W, 632 meters above sea level, on 27 March 1977, at 17:06:50 GMT.


KLM 4805Edit

Injuries Crew Passengers Others
fatal 14 234 none
partial none none none
minimal or none none none none

Pan Am 1736Edit

Injuries Crew Passengers Others
fatal 9 326 none
partial 7 61 2
minimal or none none none none