PA 1736 First Officer Bragg Sees KLM 4805 Attempt Take Off

Thirty years after the crash, Pan Am's first officer (Robert Bragg) told his story in Flight Safety Australia:

As we were turning left, I looked back to my right out of the cockpit’s right hand window. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – that the KLM B-747 was actually taking off. In a second or two, the KLM plane had rotated and the entire fuselage had lifted off the runway. The last thing I remember seeing was the red rotating beacon on the bottom of the fuselage.

I ducked, closed my eyes, and prayed, "God, let him miss us…" When it did hit our plane, it was only a very short, quiet shudder. I actually thought that he had, in fact, missed us – until I opened my eyes. The first thing I noticed was that all of the windows in the cockpit windshield were completely and totally gone. I looked to the right and saw that the right wing was totally engulfed in flames.

I looked to the left and saw that the entire upstairs lounge and its 28 passengers were gone. The cockpit floor and upstairs lounge floor were also gone. I could see all of the way to the very rear of the cabin of the plane. I have always thought that it looked as if someone with a giant knife had simply cut the entire top of the cabin off.

I immediately looked and reached up to pull the fire-control handles which shut down the engines in addition to accomplishing several other functions. After I noticed that the entire top of the cockpit was missing, I reached down and shut off all four of the engines’ start levers. Nothing happened. The engines were operating at full throttle prior to our being hit, and they continued to operate the same way after the impact – at full power.

I again started yelling, "Get out, get out!"

Media Credits

FLIGHT SAFETY AUSTRALIA, (Sept–Oct 2007), page 46.

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