35 Years On: Tenerife Disaster, 1977

35 years ago, two 747s collided at Los Rodeos Airport killing 583 people, making it the deadliest accident in aviation.

On March 27th, 1977, a Pan American 747-100, “Clipper Victor” with registration N736PA, left John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York bound for Gran Canaria Airport at Las Palmas on the Canary Islands. Meanwhile, a KLM 747-200B, “Rijn” (The Rhine) with registration PH-BUF, left Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) also en route to Gran Canaria Airport.

At 1:15pm a bomb exploded at Gran Canaria Airport by the separatist group Fuerzas Armadas Guanches. They had called in the bomb and as such the airport was closed, the two jumbo jets were diverted to Los Rodeos airport on the island of Tenerife.

Both aircraft were parked at a holding area just next to the opposite end of the runway that they would need to take off from. When the terrorist threat at Gran Canaria Airport had subsided, the KLM and the Pan Am flights were cleared to resume their journeys to their original destination. The KLM flight, Captained by Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten (seen in KLM marketing literature below), was told to taxi the full length of the runway, perform a 180º turn and wait for take off clearance. The Pan Am jet was told to taxi most of the way down the runway behind the KLM plane but leave the runway at taxiway C3. A dense fog had descended on Los Rodeos Airport. Continue Reading “35 Years On: Tenerife Disaster, 1977”