On March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 passenger aircraft collided on the runway of Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport) on the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife. With a total of 583 fatalities, the crash is the deadliest accident in aviation history.
The aircraft involved - KLM Flight 4805 (Type: Boeing 747-206B, Registration: PH-BUF, Name: Rijn (The Rhine)) and Pan Am Flight 1736 (Type: Boeing 747–121, Registration: N736PA, Name: Clipper Victor) - had been, along with many other aircraft, diverted to Tenerife from Gran Canaria Airport after a bomb exploded there. Many aircraft were diverted to the smaller Tenerife airport where air traffic controllers were forced to park many of the planes on the taxiway, thereby blocking it. Further complicating the situation, a dense fog developed at Tenerife reducing the visibility.
|Boeing 747–121, Registration: N736PA, Name: Clipper Victor|
|Boeing 747-206B, Registration: PH-BUF, Name: Rijn|
When Gran Canaria reopened, the parked aircraft blocking the taxiway at Tenerife required both of the subject 747s to taxi on the only runway in order to get in position for take-off. Due to the fog, neither aircraft could see the other, nor could the controller in the tower see the runway or the two 747s on it. As the airport did not have ground radar, the only means for the controller to identify the location of each plane was via voice reports over the radio. As a result of several misunderstandings in the ensuing communication, the KLM flight attempted to take off while the Pan Am flight was still on the runway. The resulting collision destroyed both aircraft, killing all 248 aboard the KLM flight and 335 of 396 aboard the Pan Am flight. Sixty-one people aboard the Pan Am flight, including the pilots and flight engineer, survived the disaster.