Special Sub-Topic: The Tenerife Disaster
|Why was Pan Am Flight 1736 diverted to land in Los Rodeos, Tenerife, and not in Las Palmas, Tenerife, as scheduled?|
Terrorist bomb attack on the Canary Islands. Due to a terrorist bomb attack by Basque separatists in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, all planes were diverted to land at Los Rodeos on the northern end of Tenerife, also part of the Canary Islands. Passengers aboard the PanAm plane remained on board, while passengers aboard the KLM were transported to the terminal by bus. Once Las Palmas Airport was re-opened PanAm Flight 1736 prepared to depart.
|KLM flight 4805 was full of vacationers. Where was it from?|
Amsterdam. KLM flight 4805 had left Amsterdam headed for the Canary Islands. On board there were 14 crew members and 234 passengers including three babies and 48 children. Most of the passengers were Dutch. On board there were also two Australians, four Germans and two Americans. In command of this plane was Captain Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten. Due to so many planes having been diverted to Los Rodeos, the KLM plane ended up blocking the runway so the PanAm flight was forced to taxi out of the way and wait for the KLM plane to take off first.
|Tenerife ATC (air traffic control) gave the KLM plane the flight path that it was to follow after takeoff. What did the KLM captain mistake the message to mean?|
Clear to takeoff. KLM 4805 called the Air Traffic Control tower for permission to taxi. They were told to taxi to the end of the runway and then backtrack to prepare for takeoff.
The KLM flight was to be the first plane to take off that day. It would be followed by the PanAm flight. The KLM flight taxied down the runway and then made its necessary 180 degree turn on the narrow runway to be facing the right way for take off. KLM flight 4805 waited for clearance for take off from the ATC (air traffic controller).
The KLM plane was at the end of the runway ready to depart while the PanAm plane was told to taxi along the same runway as the KLM plane and turn off the runway at exit 3. PanAm flight 1736 was to take that exit and head to a parallel taxiway. Since the fog was so thick, the PanAm flight missed the exit. Realizing that they had missed exit 3 they headed forward to exit 4.
The KLM flight captain mistook the message regarding the flight path, to mean that he was given the clearance to take off. The co-pilot, who had a heavy accent, made a response to the Air Traffic Control but the ATC did not understand whether he said "We are taking off" or "We are at take off". Because of this misunderstanding, the ATC ordered the KLM plane to stand by. At this same time the PanAm plane radioed the ATC with a message that they were not yet finished taxiing to exit 4 which led to the parallel taxiway. As a result, both messages were jumbled together. The KLM plane proceeded to take off in accordance with the captain's understanding of the message.
|Why did the KLM's flight engineer not challenge the captain's decision to take off?|
The captain's decisions overruled the flight engineer's. Captain Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten had apparently become very impatient because of the lengthy delay for takeoff. He had believed that he had been given permission to takeoff so he applied full power to the plane. Immediately, the captain began the takeoff run through.
The PanAm crew continued to report that they were not finished taxiing down the runway. When the flight engineer from the KLM flight heard the reports that the PanAm plane was not yet clear of the runway he was quick to express his concerns to Captain van Zanten. Van Zanten had been a pilot since 1947 and had been a top pilot with KLM since 1951. He had close to 12,000 hours of flying experience and was a very respected pilot. The captains of airplanes always had the authority to overrule their flight engineers, so the flight engineer's concerns were overruled by Captain van Zanten. Since the captain was the flight engineer's senior and was also the most experienced KLM pilot, the flight engineer chose to not challenge the decision to take off.
|Did the captain of the PanAm flight have enough time to avoid the collision?|
No. When the PanAm crew spotted the landing lights from the KLM flight those lights seemed to be stationary at first. The thick fog made it impossible to tell that the KLM plane was moving.
First Officer Bragg, aboard the PanAm plane began to yell "Get off, get off!" when it became obvious that the KLM plane was speeding toward them along the same runway as they were on. Captain Grubbs and First Officer Bragg tried to apply full power to their plane and make a sharp turn away from the impending collision that was upon them. Despite their futile efforts, the impact was only seconds away and they could not get their PanAm plane out of harm's way. Captain van Zanten, on the KLM plane tried to climb out but the KLM plane, not airborne enough, slammed into the side of the PanAm airplane. The center fuselage of the PanAm plane was completely ripped apart on impact. The KLM plane rolled 180 degrees and slammed with great force into the ground. It landed belly up on the runway. There were 234 passengers and 14 crew members on the KLM plane. All 248 people perished. There were 396 passengers and crew members on the PanAm flight. 335 people aboard the PanAm plane died. Between the two planes a total of 583 people died on that fateful day. Among the 61 survivors aboard the PanAm plane, were Captain Grubbs and First Officer Bragg.
|Did the Los Rodeos airport have all of its runway lights working?|
The centerline lights were not working. The runway center line lights were out of service which made things very dangerous. There was not a ground radar system at this particular airport. The weather conditions were extremely poor with thick fog.
|Which worldwide rule was established for all air traffic control towers and pilot crews after the Tenerife disaster?
All air traffic and pilots must use English as the common working language for standard phrasing. After approximately 70 crash investigators from Spain, the Netherlands, the USA and the two airline companies (KLM and PanAm) were involved in the investigation, many changes took place. The English language had to be used for all standard phrasing from then on. Airplane manufacturers were ordered to install equipment to help pilots see more clearly in fog. Cockpit procedures were changed bringing about emphasis on mutual agreement between the pilot and the co-pilot in decision-making as opposed to the pilot having sole responsibility for the decisions and overruling any concerns the co-pilot or flight engineer might have. Crew resource management also became a standard training procedure for all major airline companies.
|Where is the International Tenerife Memorial situated?|
Mount Mesa Mota, Tenerife, Canary Islands. Well known Dutch artist Rudi van de Wint (deceased in 2006) designed the International Tenerife Memorial. This memorial stands at Mount Mesa Mota, Tenerife, Canary Islands. It was inaugurated on March 27, 2007.
On March 27, 2008 a 50-page commemorative booklet plus a DVD in Spanish, Dutch and English was published in honor of the victims and survivors of this disaster.
|After the crash, First Officer Bragg had intended to turn off the plane's engines. Why didn't he?|
The instrument panel which housed the engine switches had been destroyed.. First Officer Bragg had fully intended to turn off the aircraft engines on the Pan Am flight, but the top of the cockpit was destroyed in the collision. Because of the destruction Bragg couldn't turn the engines off at all.
The 61 survivors from the PanAm flight made their way out of the plane onto the left wing. They had to pass through holes in the fuselage in order to vacate the airplane.
Rescue was very slow to arrive due to the fog. At first, it wasn't even known that two planes had been involved in the horrific crash. Most of the survivors eventually jumped to the ground from the wing of the Pan Am airplane while awaiting rescue. Nine of these survivors later died from their injuries.
|Who or what was found to be solely responsible for this accident?|
Captain Jacob Van Zanten, KLM pilot. Captain Jacob Van Zanten (killed in the crash) was found to be solely responsible for the accident which took place. It was determined that he in fact had taken off without clearance to do so. He did not heed ATC instructions to stand by for take off. He did not abandon take off when he knew that the PanAm flight was still taxiing on the runway, as advised by his co-pilot.
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