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Tenerife: Deadliest Air Accident - Summary

One bomb had already exploded, in the passenger terminal, as terrorists tried to disrupt traffic at Las Palmas airport on March 27, 1977. All incoming planes were diverted from Grand Canary Island to nearby Los Rodeos Airport (on the north side of Tenerife island).

 Ill-equipped to handle increasing traffic and jumbo jets, Los Rodeos (also called Tenerife Norte - TFN) had other potential problems that spring day.

Located near mountains, TFN’s runway could be clear one minute and completely shrouded in fog the next. The airport had no ground radar. Its center lights weren’t working. Most air-traffic controllers spoke English with heavy Spanish accents.

Pilots flying into Tenerife, on this day, faced long delays, threatening their “legal” flying requirements. One of those pilots, Jacob van Zanten, had just completed months of working with other KLM pilots in a flight simulator.

Pilots, in flight simulators, concentrate more on flying planes than communicating with ground controllers in airport towers. Based on official investigations, the world’s deadliest aviation accident - claiming 583 lives at Tenerife Norte - occurred because of pilot error.

In this story behind the disaster, virtually visit the island of Tenerife. See the airport as it existed in 1977, and the planes involved in the crash. Examine officials drawings and photos. Retrace the path of two fog-shrouded airplanes as they approached each other, from opposite directions, on the same runway.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5139stories and lessons created

Original Release: Mar 01, 2006

Updated Last Revision: Nov 09, 2016


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Tenerife: Deadliest Air Accident" AwesomeStories.com. Mar 01, 2006. Dec 15, 2017.
       <http://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Tenerife-Deadliest-Air-Accident/Summary>.
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