A Horrifying Aircraft Disaster That Shook the World Involved Two Jumbo Jets

Yana Bostongirl

The deadliest disaster in aviation history occurred on March 27, 1977, on the Spanish island of Tenerife. It involved two Boeing 747s, KLM Flight 4085 and PanAm Flight 1736 which resulted in 583 deaths. Only 61 passengers were able to make it out of the fiery crash alive.

The unfortunate fact was that neither of the planes was supposed to be in Tenerife that fateful day but had been diverted from Las Palmas Airport in the Grand Canary Islands due to an explosion caused by a terrorist group. The cause of the crash was later revealed to be the KLM captain's decision to initiate takeoff before receiving air traffic control clearance.

Other factors that contributed to the disaster were low visibility due to heavy fog, the absence of ground radar, and the fact that the KLM captain was in a rush and the plane was fully fueled requiring more speed and runway for takeoff.

These circumstances led the KLM flight to barrel into the Pan Am flight which had been taxiing towards takeoff at the same time. The ensuing explosion killed everyone on the KLM flight and 330 passengers on the PanAm flight. Only 60 passengers made it out of the fiery crash alive.

This is an excerpt from an article that describes the conclusions of both the Spanish and Dutch teams investigating the crash: "The subsequent investigation by Spanish authorities concluded that the primary cause of the accident was the KLM captain's decision to take off in the mistaken belief that a takeoff clearance from air traffic control (ATC) had been issued. Dutch investigators placed a greater emphasis on a mutual misunderstanding in radio communications between the KLM crew and ATC, but ultimately KLM admitted that their crew was responsible for the accident and the airline agreed to financially compensate the relatives of all of the victims."

Robin Van Lanschot was one of the 249 passengers and crew of the KLM, however, she did not board the flight to Las Palamas and decided to remain in Tenerife thus escaping the fate of the other 248 souls on board.

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