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The Tenerife crash - March 27th, 1977

At 14h30 GMT, good news: the Tenerife control tower informed all grounded aircraft that Las Palmas airport had just re-opened. The controller informed the Panam Captain that in order to speed up take-off he could taxi right behind the KLM 747. The Panam captain agreed.

PanAm Boeing 747
The PanAm Boeing 747 involved in the crash

Weather deteriorated: a heavy fog would soon cover the airport. The visibility rapidly dropped to a few hundred meters (300 feet). At 16h51, the KLM 747 was cleared to start its engines. At 16h52, the Panam 747 requested clearance to start its engines. The control tower's answer was as follows:

16:52 (Tenerife control tower) - PanAm 1736, you are cleared to start. Report ready for taxi. For your information, you will have to backtrack behind the other 747 and leave the runway third taxiway to your left.

Both 747s would therefore backtrack the length of the 3,400-meter (11,000 feet) runway at low speed. The KLM aircraft would backtrack to the end of the runway, make a u-turn and report ready for take-off. The PanAm plane would exit the runway into the third taxiway in order to free the way for the KLM aircraft to take off. This was deemed the simplest solution in view of heavy traffic at the airport.

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