Crash of the Century | Tenerife Airport Disaster

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On March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 passenger jets collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport), on the Spanish island of Tenerife, Canary Islands. The crash killed 583 people, making it the deadliest accident in aviation history. As a result of the complex interaction of organizational influences, environmental conditions, and unsafe acts leading up to this aircraft mishap, the disaster at Tenerife has served as a textbook example for reviewing the processes and frameworks used in aviation mishap investigations and accident prevention.

Credits go to Mayday (Air Crash Investigation, Air Emergency, Air Disasters in other places) for the video clips of the aftermath!

Music: Only The Light Is Gone
Artist: Dalo Vian
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About the Author: Allec Joshua Ibay


  1. The KLM rule against pilot overtime was ridiculous. This was an unusual situation, beyond the pilot's control. And why divert to tiny Los Rodeos? They should've been diverted to a larger airport on mainland Spain, Portugal or even Morocco.

  2. Definitely not trying to compare the two, but as an over-the-road truck driver, I distinctly remember my instructor saying the exact words " as a rookie, you will likely not make the major mistakes. You are well trained and your guard is up. The drivers who make the most mistakes are the ones have the most experience and have become complacent and comfortable with their position."

    thats just how it is.

  3. And most interesting question, why was KLM not ordered to take exit C-4? It was easier to take C-4 and wait, let PanAm take C-4 as well and wait, and then let go KLM to runway. Or, KLM take C-4 and PanAm till end runway make 180, and leave first. Or let PanAm wait till KLM is gone, in fact this is what pilot PanAm wanted according to CVR.

    Remark: KLM was first ordered to take exit 3, but this was recalled.
    Second remark: planes before them were told to take C-4. Was some else in charge? Not knowing what he was doing?

    It was so clear, never 2 planes on a runway. It could have been easily solved. 3 options, no problem, tower did choose option 4 ….

  4. Please read official CVR, Van Zanten did advance throttles and … they stayed there. Later he increased power engine 3 and 4, it is all in the CVR.

    He wanted all engines spooling the right way, it is a 747. There is fog, and you do not want more power on one side than the other, it come tough to steer 747. Fog? No centerlining lightning? You do not want engines be a problem with steering.

  5. If only the Dutch Captain had waited 3/4 minutes. My God! So much destruction, death and grief could have been avoided. Despite having taken off without permission. Company money was more important than 583 lives. R.I.P. to all.

  6. This can be considered in some sense a terrorist-induced crash. That idiot who detonated that bomb at La Guardia actually killed more people than he saw.

  7. Kapitan Jacob Van Zanten. The Jim Jones of civil aviation. F… company rules! 583 lives are more important even if you don,t care about yourself. My God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How much did it cost K.L.M. for all the death and destruction?

  8. Wait wait wait…. let me get this straight.

    Based on the video, the Pan Am flight had its entire top blown off, the entire fuselage burning into oblivion, and 61 people survive.
    But the KLM flight, which only had it's landing gear chucked off, then slided gracefully down the runway, had EVERYONE die???

  9. Allec, sometimes you need be more direct when making a point. Here, note when the ATC tells Pan Am, report when clear, and then Pan Am replies, we'll report when we're clear. That is on the KLM recorder. Why the KLM flight engineer then says, is he not clear then? Now note the later call of V1, meaning, until V1, the takeoff can be aborted. We here in the US have a saying, to wit, he heard what he wanted to hear (and never mind what was actually said). Why no one on the KLM but the flight engineer heard, report when clear….we'll report when we're clear, which was the moment when the takeoff should have been aborted. Flaps down, brakes on, reverse thrust if need be.

    And I bring this up because the Dutch reply to the Spanish report has the Dutch saying: "it is evident that the KLM crew had the absolute conviction that they were cleared for it [takeoff]". Again, he heard what he wanted to hear (the absolute conviction). Yet even the Dutch go on to say, as I did above, "It should be remarked that from the DFDR data can be derived that at the moment of the word "Jawel" (Yes, he did)(referring to whether Pan Am cleared the runway) an abort of the takeoff could still be carried out successfully (since V1 was not yet called out)(the use of Jawel also supports the notion of hearing what wasn't said, since no recorder has Pan Am ever saying, we've cleared the runway, and so even though the opposite was said, he heard what he wanted to hear, and more on this below).

    Lastly, not your fault, but with the graphics there is still a sliver of air between the KLM and the ground when the fact is that relatively long tail strike of the KLM. Not only did the full fuel load mean a longer distance on runway until takeoff so too did the friction of that extended tail strike. The sim needs some sparks there.

    Now, for some bonus freebies, why two airplanes on the same runaway in the fog? The Pan Am captain rather frowned on that as recorded on the Pan Am recorder.

    Next is why all of the KLM people died. The fuselage was rather largely intact. The reason why everybody died is because Mr. I'm Rather Concerned With Flying Time Regulations loaded up on fuel, enough for Tenerife to Gran Canaria to Amsterdam, and never mind worrying about landing on Gran Canaria with that load (watch some of Allec's other vids of planes in trouble asking ATC if it's okay to drop fuel, since we don't want burn to death on any crash landing, and those are the return to the airport, the plane's in trouble, kinda things, so large fuel load and so let's dump the stuff lest we all become crispy critters). And that's what happened here, the fuselage largely intact and no hint at anyone trying even so much as to open a single emergency escape and that because with the crash and that fuel, the outside was rather more flaming hot than even Dante's Inferno and so why try to escape, as you might want to grab a wet rag and breath through that, there on the cabin floor, and live. But that didn't work either, I mean, look at the photos of the rather entirely burnt out hulk of the KLM.

    Now for third time's the charm, as we say, the post-accident investigative reports don't have nearly the same concern as some here, me included, re the flying time. For obvious reasons, the Dutch give it the least weight. For how we know that the refueling was a major causal factor, two reasons. One, you don't want to land with that much avgas if you don't have to, and he didn't, since if you do crash, it may burn, and that won't be pretty. And you know what the standing order is, one of the one's that keeps us all alive, never take a chance you don't have to. Next is the change in the weather, which went from good to bad. Was good until in the midst of the refueling, so they all could have gotten out of there before the weather turned and none of this happens. So the flying itself means no refueling here, only the time to the gate at Amsterdam gives any reason, and then we know what the consequence was, low clouds and death. Everything was about the time, to include the, hearing what he wanted to hear, since that means less time to Amsterdam if Pan Am was clear and he could take off now and so that's what he heard even though the opposite was what was said. And as discussed above, the unequivocal conviction of permission take off was also hearing what he wanted to hear and again about the time concern. And the worst of it? What is the better excuse for too much time? It's not my fault as some terrorists were trying to blow up the airport, and so of course we we're delayed, what did you expect? If you can think of a better excuse for being late, please, let me know.

  10. Flown more times than I can remember and every time that plane throttles down the lift off lane I always think of all the confusion that took place just to get me to that point! This was a total cluster *uck if ever there was one.

  11. 15:06 If Flight 1736 could not make the two 148 degree turns onto Charlie 3 did the Captain call the tower to inform them of that?? I don’t think so and that goes to my next point. It seems that many of these catastrophes could be avoided if only the right hand knew what the left hand was doing.

  12. I don't think I saw it mentioned in the summary of findings, but I wonder if KLM hadn't refueled he would have been able to take off before getting to C4. He would have been real heavy.

  13. It seems like everyone was a little at fault. It looks like the fog fogged up everyone's brains as well as their vision. ATC could have made crystal clear that no clearance had been given. KLM knows another plane is taxiing on the runway – he has to verify that he's clear. Pan Am has to tell ATC that they could not make the turn at C3 and that they are not clear. What a sad and preventable tragedy.

  14. jesus.. all comments are paragraphs… ill do it too 😀


  15. Horrible, Iit wasnt untill this video that I heard the complete story, thank you.
    Could you please make one of the horrible El AL Cargo 1992 crash in Amsterdam?

  16. Chief flight instructor's Van Zanten's take-off lessons:
    Lesson 1:
    If in hurry, just take-off. That is if you get clearance. Any clearance for anything. Even say a veterinary or customs clearance will do.
    Lesson 2:
    If there was a large plane backtracking the runway behind you in thick fog on some airport not suited for it (which just might make it harder for it to clear your runway) see Lesson One anyway. Never mind that the invisible plane following you might be still on the runway for various other reasons. As you got clearance for something that will also clear the runway of any unwanted objects ! Isn't that clear ?
    Lesson 3:
    For the tower: Say "ok" as often as possible. Ok ? By doing so you will create a sunny, friendly atmosphere in which every plane crew will feel accepted and included – even in thick fog. Never use harsh phrases like "take-off clearance denied". Or direct information like "the Pan Am plane is still on the runway, stand by". Ok ? Ok !

  17. A bomber calls in to an airport reporting that a bomb is to go off. I hope that bomber died or dies a  horrible death. No rewards for terrorism. For whatever reason. Especially  for a fake religion.

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