Deadliest Air Crash

What was described as the deadliest air crash in history happened on March 27, 1977, when two Boeing 747 passenger jets collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport (now known as Tenerife North Airport), on the island of Tenerife, Spain.

There were two aircraft involved in the accident – KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736, aircraft from the United States and the Netherlands respectively.

 Pan Am Flight 1736 (Boeing 747-121, registration N736PA, named Clipper Victor) had originally boarded passengers from Los Angeles International Airportwith an intermediate stop at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). 

KLM Flight 4805 ( Boeing 747-206B, registration PH-BUF, named Rijn (Rhine) was a charter flight for Holland International Travel Group and had arrived from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the Netherlands.  It was carrying 14 crew members and 235 passengers, including 52 children – most of which were Dutch; four Germans, two Austrians and two American.

Why KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 disaster is regarded as the deadliest air crash in aviation history

KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 crash became the deadliest air crash in history for the following reasons:

 1. Before the accident that wiped out every single passenger on board KLM Flight, there was a bomb explosion at Gran Canaria Airportwhere the planes were supposed to land and the threat of a second bomb caused many aircraft to be diverted to Los Rodeos Airport – including KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 – the two aircraft involved in the accident.
2. Tenerife North Airport (Los Rodeos Airport) was an unscheduled stop for both aircraft. Their destination was Gran Canaria International Airport (also known as Las Palmas Airport or Gando Airport)

3. The taxiway at Tenerife North Airport was blocked because so many aeroplanes landed at the airport at once

 4. The airport, had only one runway and one major taxiway parallel to it, with four short taxiways connecting the two.
 5. After the bomb threat at its original destination – Gran Canaria – had been contained, both Pan Am aircraft and KLM Flight 4805 were eager to take off from Tenerife Airport.

6. KLM Flight 4805 Captain Veldhuyzen van Zanten had decided to fully refuel at Los Rodeos instead of Las Palmas had obstructed Pan Am aircraft’s initial attempt to take the runway. 

7. Then a sudden change in weather caused a dense fog to develop so the pilots of both planes could not see which runway each was heading, neither could the controller in the tower could not see the runway or the two 747s on it.

8. The airport did not have surveillance radar either and the controller could only determine the whereabouts of each aircraft through radioed verbal reports.

9. There was also unclear communications between the pilots and the controller who could not see the runway due to the fogs – misinterpretation that they were

10. Both airplanes crashed in a collision on the same runway due to the fire and explosions resulting from the fuel spilt and ignited in the impact.

12. All 234 passengers and 14 crew members in the KLM plane died, as did 326 passengers and nine crew members aboard the Pan Am.

Watch the Video of the deadliest air crash in aviation history


Deadliest Air Crash

However, one person survived from KLM Flight 4805. She had chosen to stay back because she lived on Tenerife and did not think it practical to fly to Gran Canaria just to return to Tenerife the next day.

 The other 54 passengers and seven crew members aboard the Pan Am aircraft reportedly survived, including the captain, first officer and flight engineer.

KLM accepted responsibility and paid a total of $110 million as settlements for property and damages. Each victim’s family received an average of $189,000.

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