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The Tenerife crash - March 27th, 1977

Some 583 people died or were mortally injured on March 27th 1977 after two Boeing 747 jumbo jets collided on a runway at Los Rodeos airport, Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, making this the world's worst civil aviation disaster.

Tenerife in the world The Canary Islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Western coast of Africa, between 27 and 29 degrees north latitude, and between 13 and 18 degrees west longitude. They are volcanic islands. Tenerife is the archipelago's middle island and is 81 km long and 45 km wide.

The PanAm Boeing 747-121, on a charter passenger flight from Los Angeles to Las Palmas, had been in the air for eight hours. Some 396 people, including 16 crew, were onboard. Its captain was annoyed as he had not obtained clearance to land at Las Palmas. A bomb had exploded there two hours previously and the airport was closed for repair. The 747 was requested to divert to Tenerife, 70 km west of Las Palmas. The Captain and his passengers were unhappy about this arrangement, but they had no other choice.

At 14h15 GMT, PanAm flight 1736 made its final approach on runway 30. Canary islands The landing at Los Rodeos airport (Tenerife) was a smooth one, but the captain noticed the larger than usual number of aircraft at the airport. Many aircraft, including a 747-206B from KLM, had landed there following the closure of Las Palmas airport. The small Tenerife airport was saturated.

The PanAm 747 was requested to park in fourth position, behind the KLM 747. The KLM aircraft was also a charter flight (KLM 4805). It had landed 45 minutes previously, with 248 people onboard, including 14 crew. Its captain was nervous: very strict Dutch regulation forbid the crew to exceed their quota of flying hours. Should the plane not take-off soon, its captain and KLM could be in serious trouble.