When the day dawned bright and beautiful on March 27th, 1977 in the Tenerife Islands, no one imagined the horror that lay in store for the island later in the day.
Aircraft diverted after bomb goes off at Gran Canary Airport
It all began at the Gran Canary Airport. After a bomb exploded at the airport and a threat that another bomb was set to go off, many of the flights had to be diverted to another airport – the Los Rodeos Airport.
Two of the flights that were diverted were the Pan Am Flight 1736 and the KLM Flight 4805. These were the two flights that were involved in the collision that caused the death of 583 individuals.
Factors resulting in Runway Collisions
There were numerous unfortunate factors that resulting in the catastrophe.
Because of the heavy rush, there were planes parked in the taxiway at Los Rodeos and this caused the runway to be blocked so no more planes could land there.
When it was safe to open the Gran Canary Airport, a heavy fog that had developed made visibility really bad.
The airport at Gran Canary did not have radars so the air traffic controllers could not see the runway and both the planes got into position on the runway with only voice reports to guide the air controllers.
The two aircraft could not see the other and the controllers could not see anything from their tower either. All the odds were just stacked against those flights that day.
Spotty communication and misunderstandings between the pilot and the control tower resulted in the pilot of the KLM flight trying to take off, unaware that the Pan Am flight was still parked on the runway.
The inevitable collision killed all crew and passengers on the KLM flight. 61 people survived on Pan Am aircraft. The total number of 538 deaths that terrible day makes the worst aviation disaster ever.
After this terrible incident, Los Rodeos Airport had ground radar installed and such was the impact that there was a dramatic change in communication in the aviation industry as a result.