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Squawks & HeadlinesTenerife disaster - 35 years ago today.

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Tenerife disaster - 35 years ago today.

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35 years ago today, the Tenerife airport disaster, happened. When a 747 began it's takeoff roll and slammed into another taxing 747, 583 people died making it the worst accident in aviation history with only 61 survivors. (en.wikipedia.org) More...

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dbaker
Daniel Baker 5
A terrible event. The one positive thing we can take away is that in decades of growth in aviation, we have learned from mistakes and advanced technology so that this type of accident has not occurred again.

However, recent events have made it clear that there is still considerable room for growth in runway safety. It's good to remember events like this to remind us about how tragic the consequences can be and encourage the aviation industry to continue to focus on runway safety.
WALLACE24
WALLACE24 1
A lot has been done to promote safety on the tarmac and hopefully in the cockpit too. The culture of airline captains seems to have changed from God status and that is a good thing. Let's leave that syndome to the medical profession.LOL
preacher1
preacher1 2
Yeah, with CRM training now pretty much a part of all Airline crew training, it gives the crew a forum from which to challenge a Captain. It also let's that Captain know that he just might not be infallible. Most corporate crews are using it or some form of it withing their organizations too. Personal opinio but it's one of the best things to ever happen in aviation.
preacher1
preacher1 4
Flying on memory here, but it seems like the official report basically blamed it on hetrodyne(skip, radio jam or whatever), which did not allow the KLM crew to hear the full tower instruction and caused them to start take off roll prematurely, but side reports noted that the KLM captain was the "Dutch Golden Boy" who could do no wrong and started a harangue on the controllers to get out of his parking place and into line well before others and that the tower got him out there just to shut him up. Then, the arrogance really took over which is why he commenced his take off roll. Word is that the official report was going to at least put part of the blame on him but pressure from the Dutch kept it out, at least this was what was on the street in 77. It really don't matter, 583 people died, and as Daniel says here, with Airport capacity straining everywhere, it is only by the Grace of God and alert pilots/controllers, that we haven't had another Tenarife here yet.
honzanl
honza nl 3
Not only side-reports: it is the truth. At that time the Dutch civil aviation authority (RLD) was, as we say in Holland, 2 hands on one belly with the KLM. So they used every power to get blame off the KLM pilot.
The Dutch captain was the chief-pilot of KLM; so the first reaction at KLm HQ when the message came of the accident was to call him, not knowing he was flying the machine. RLD indeed tried to blame everything on the so-called message black-out: because PanAm and KLM both were talking no one could hear each other. They also blamed PanAm for missing the exit while taxiing. But the facts were so clear that last year even the main KLM pilot had to accept the truth:
when you listen to the voice-recordings this is clear:
1) the KLM captain started without permission. The co-pilot then came in and said they had no permission. The KLM 747 had moved a few feet but stopped.
2) then the KLM captain again started, this time the co-pilot didn't dare to come in anymore. So there the real cause is: the KLM 747 starting without any permission, in fog, while they absolutely could not know if the PanAm was still on the runway too...
3) only 6 seconds after the KLM captain had started this message black-outhappened, and so it never could be the cause anymore, they were already acelerating on the runway....
4) after some time the PanAm clearly communicated they were on the runway, on the KLM voice-recordings you can hear this too: the KLM crew knew then absolutely knew they were full-power on a take-off with PanAm still in their way, in fog ! And yet they didn't do anything, no full-stop, nothing; they just went on with the take-off....
So the simple conclusion is: the fault and blame are 100% on the KLM captain. Yes, there was fog, yes the PanAm missed an exit; but to prevent things then to go wrong you have to stick to rules and regulations: and starting your take-off run without permission is a death-sin !! even more in fog....
By the way: the KLM captain was a very religious person, rumours in Holland go that his last words were "Godverdomme" (=Damn God or God damn)....
Also: they were put to Tenerife as on their original destination (las Palmas) was a bomb-threat. To not lose time in Las Palmas (crew fatigue rules) the KLM captain decided to top the 747 full with fuel. This way he fast could leave Las Palmas then for Holland/Amsterdam. And so the 747 was close to MTOW. And he nearly managed to climb over the PanAm 747. Wonder what had happened if he not had topped it with fuel: faster acceleration, faster airborne, maybe just miss then the PanAm 747.....
preacher1
preacher1 1
Thanks for the detail. At least my memory is still good.lol As I said though, the sad part of it is that there are still 583 people dead, and most folks have no idea how close they may come to that same situation at some Airports today.
BamH
Bam Henehan 1
I recall reading at the time that the KLM Captain had uttered the phrase "Mein Gott!" (My God!)at the moment he saw the PanAm 747 in front of him. These turned out to be his last words.
Derg
Roland Dent 0
Wayne...WTF do we need reminding of this....then on the other hand there are abunch of younger folks who do. I suppuse the latest revison to prevent this is "line up and WAIT" instruction rather than the "position and HOLD" instruction. I suppose for all of us the "postion and hold command" kinda encouraged the "let her rip response"...not sure about you Wayne but I just love the thrill of take of and climb out.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Roland: I think that is an underlying thrill for everyone, whether they admit it or not, but as far as reminding, you have to remember that there are some youngsters flying out there right now that weren't even born yet when it happened. Shoot, I was only about 28 or 29 at the time and just barely had a FE seat warm.
Derg
Roland Dent 0
Agreed...yes..me and you are old coots.
1littlerunaway
GINGER WILSON 2
As I read the article, I was glad to see new procedures were put into place to prevent this from happening again. Yet, it is so tragic that people died in order for that to happen. :-(
thewhitegroup
Stephan White 3
A another rough remembrance day for me and my family. But we are so very, very grateful that my parents, Ruth and Stephen (Homer) Culbertson both survived the Tenerife crash. And our hearts go out to those that did not, and especially to those that lost so many Dutch children.

We have many people to thank: the US military for their suburb rescue efforts, the Orange County (CA) Burn Center, and a great number of individuals. One of those individuals was Peter Jennings who, on the leg from Malaga to Las Palmas, said that if I needed anything, to call upon him and ABC. A classy guy!

Blessed we are!
notaperfectpilot
A long video but I think well worth it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHBs09Kf56w
Doobs
Dee Lowry 1
Unfortunately, it was the "Perfect Storm"! The loss of 583 souls could have been prevented but all the circumstances leading up to impact made the "Storm" inevitable.
psseshadri
A book was published several years ago about this accident but I don't remember the title. "Cleared for Take-Off" or some thing similar to that. Any member remembers the title?
FrenchDriver
J.J. Lasne 1
I remember this accident. It was terrible. It looks like it was a perfect storm of events leading to a catastrophe.
WALLACE24
WALLACE24 1
You could surmise a perfect storm if you are a very open minded person. Most will put the blame squarely on the shoulders of one person. Extenuating circumstances for sure. But only one person crammed the throttles open without a clear cut , no doubt about it clearance in almost zero zero conditions.
almaa
Alma arseneau 1
I landed there two days later fromCasablanca It was terrible to see those two plane
We left Casablanca in a very small plane about ten peoples
What I saw there will always be in my memories
Alma Arseneau
tbpera
Tom Pera -1
Two things occurred
1- Portuguese controller and Dutch pilot using english..
2- use of the word "takeoff" inappropriately
I was ATC controller at the time and read full NTSB report... I was trained NEVER to use the word "takeoff" unless and until I was prepared to clear a plane for takeoff.. I believe Portuguese controller said something to KLM like "hold for takeoff" and KLM pilot said "OK going for takeoff"
miscommunication from PanAm and use of English by non-native English speakers all contibuted
mhlansdell00
Mark Lansdell 1
Tom:

Different topic but, why did controllers switch phrases from "Taxi into position and hold" to "line-up and wait"? Just jaw fategue?
FrenchDriver
J.J. Lasne 1
Not Pan Am either but KLM.
MaxJones
Max Jones 1
I believe it was for ICAO standardization.
microwalda
microwalda -1
First thing never occurred since no Portuguesse controller was involved in this accident.
mpradel
Marcus Pradel -1
"Line up and Wait" is not much safer! specially in Europe when it can be: "line up and wait XXXXX" replace XXXX with: behind landing traffic!

jmchevallieradvisor
No Portuguese, but Spanish ...
alistairm
alistairm 0
A good website for those who want to know more:

http://project-tenerife.com/engels/index.htm
djakarta
N736PA Clipper Victor, Remember the victims.
davysims
David Sims -1
Despite all the technological advances, runway incursions are still one of the major airport related safety concerns.
tbpera
Tom Pera -1
dealing with foreign pilots speaking English can be especially challenging and was a big factor in this disaster..
course, we always had trouble with Navy pilots, too left and right port and starboard
arktiro
Ro Kemo -1
As bad as it was, this won't be a patch on what happens when the wings start falling off the A380's. How many crack stages are there after stage II? Not long to go now I reckon.
Derg
Roland Dent -1
Nah the Dutch always have been excellent speakers..and I bettya better than the Dpanish ATC that day. The Dutch though can be arrogant and often use Flemmish or French when they really should not Same as the Canucks in Montreal. Total arrogance and to hell with everybody else.
alistairm
alistairm -1
Mmmmm, from what i know - i do live in Montreal - Montreal ATC is very professional and will answer you in English or French. Have you had experiences otherwise?
alistairm
alistairm 1
Roland, what am i suppose to be looking at when i go to this link? Thanks
Derg
Roland Dent -2
Do we need reminding of this event?
mhlansdell00
Mark Lansdell 2
To paraphrase, 'one who doesn't study history is bound to repeat it'. Don't think it can't happen again. There is no shortage of arrogant people out there and some are in the left seat of big aluminum tubes.
chicoaggie
Tim Smith 3
Yes, pilots who have never heard of this event need to learn from it to prevent a like occurence from ever happening again.
alistairm
alistairm 1
Some people do Roland. For some, it is a coping mechanism. Though, if you want a more precise answer, why don't you ask Stepahn White directly.
thewhitegroup
Stephan White 0
Alistair, The lesson of this tragedy faces many a pilot many a time in the span of many years. That lesson is, the ability to use the word, "Unable" in a flash when things just do not feel right. The NTSB files are filled with crashes of good pilots going beyond what they would really like to do. Returning to London within hours of arrival at Tenerife, I spent a few moments speaking with Victor Gruggs and Robert Bragg. They had little to say, but their great fatigue spoke volumes. And this fatigue started before the crash. That day had been very stressful . After arriving in Tenerife, Grubbs spent hours dealing with the problems of many elderly passengers getting tired and irritable. And I am sure there was pressure from both Pan Am and the cruise ship. Given the choice, Grubbs would have preferred to call it a day after landing at Tenerife. My mother told me that two couples did exactly that - smelling trouble, they got off and went to a Tenerife hotel.

After I viewed the skinny taxiway/runway and imagining the fog (not far from the wrecks), that would have been a good time for Grubbs to remain at the little terminal until he had the airport all to himself. What, an extra 15 minutes? But he chose to share an unfamiliar airport in fog with another plane with commanding people more comfortable in other languages. Bad move! But who among us has not done the like at some time, but we were luckier?

That wait-tape must have run through Gruggs' mind a thousand times!
preacher1
preacher1 -1
Stephan: I saw an interview, I believe with Bragg(FO?)on HISTORY CHANNEL last week. I think it I had seen it before, but while he said there wasn't any God like attitude in the cockpit, he said they, like all pilots there, were under pressure to get out, but as you say, been there, done that, in some form or fashion for most of us. I think that the Arrogance on the part of the KLM Captain that I spoke of above was also published in a side bar in FLYING magazine back around that time.
Derg
Roland Dent -1
Yeah fair comment..older I get the more I want to forget.