Tenerife disaster

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The Tenerife disaster, the deadliest crash in aviation history, occurred on March 27, 1977, when two jumbo jets (both Boeing 747s) collided in the fog on the ground at Los Rodeos airport, Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. At least 560 people died as a ball of fire erupted into the sky, and the explosion heard all across the island.

All 249 passengers aboard the KLM plane died in the crash. About 60 injured survivors escaped the Pan Am Boeing 747, which carried a 16 crew members and 378 passengers.[1]

Neither airline was even scheduled to be at that airport, but both had been diverted from the larger Las Palmas airport on nearby Gran Canaria island due to a terrorist bomb blast there.

The immediate cause was that the KLM jet was in the process of taking off and hit the Pan Am plane as it taxied across the runway. The KLM pilot was ultimately held responsible, and the Pan Am pilot cleared. The Dutch report tried to emphasize that the American plane had taxied slightly beyond the third exit, and reported that the KLM captain assumed that he was given clearance to take off due to the ambiguous terminology used at the time.[2]

The primary cause of the accident was Captain Veldhuyzen van Zanten of the KLM plane taking off without the proper air traffic control clearance, resulting in the runway incursion. Contributing factors included: the presence of thick fog at the airport, greatly limiting visibility; the KLM plane taking on an extra 55,000 liters of fuel at a location that blocked the Pam Am plane from taking off, as well as making the plane heavier and therefore increased impact and worsened the post-crash fire; CVR data noise was speculated to be the air traffic controllers listening to a football game, but this allegation was never proven; and inadequate crew resource management.[3][4][5][6]

Aftermath

Pilots as well as air traffic controllers now only use the phrase "take-off" when giving or cancelling actual clearances; up until such point the word "departure" is used instead to avoid confusion.[7] The airport eventually received ground radar from the government of Spain after the crash. Crew resource management training was changed in order to further emphasize the need for communication among all members.[8][9][10] Los Rodeos Airport was renamed to Tenerife North Airport after construction on Tenerife South Airport was finished.[11]

References

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/27/newsid_2531000/2531063.stm
  2. Dutch comments on the Spanish report (PDF). Project-Tenerife.
  3. Helmreich, R. L.; Merritt, A. C.; Wilhelm, J. A. (1999). "The Evolution of Crew Resource Management Training in Commercial Aviation" (pdf). Int. J. Aviat. Psychol. 9 (1): 19–32. doi:10.1207/s15327108ijap0901_2. PMID 11541445. Archived on March 6, 2013. Template:Citation error. https://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/group/HelmreichLAB/publications/pubfiles/Pub235.pdf. 
  4. This Spanish report says 55,500 liters of jet fuel. Based on a density of 0.8705 kg/l that weighs some 45 metric tons, or 49 US tons Template:Webarchive
  5. The Deadliest Plane Crash - transcript. NOVA. “The 55 tons of fuel the Dutch plane had taken on creates a massive fireball that seals the fate of everyone onboard”
  6. Official reportTemplate:Small, section 5.2, p. 38 (PDF page 41 of 63): "... these circumstances could have induced the co-pilot not to ask any questions, assuming that his captain was always right"
  7. CAP 413 Radio Telephony Manual (Edition 15), chapter 4, page 6, paragraph 1.7.10
  8. Helmreich, R. L.; Merritt, A. C.; Wilhelm, J. A. (1999). "The Evolution of Crew Resource Management Training in Commercial Aviation" (pdf). Int. J. Aviat. Psychol. 9 (1): 19–32. doi:10.1207/s15327108ijap0901_2. PMID 11541445. Archived on March 6, 2013. Template:Citation error. http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/group/helmreichlab/publications/pubfiles/Pub235.pdf. 
  9. » Tenerife North airport will get a new control tower, more than 30 years after world’s biggest air disaster..
  10. "The Tenerife Airport Disaster - the worst in aviation history", The Tenerife Information Centre. 
  11. LLC, Revolvy,. "Tenerife North Airport" on Revolvy.com (en).