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46 Years On: The Deadliest Crash in Aviation History

46 years ago the deadliest crash in aviation history occurred in the Canary Islands. This crash shed light on a new method of pilot training and revolutionized the aviation industry forever. ( More...

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Frank DeLeon 11
Articles from AeroExplorer require me to turn off my ad blocker. No way will I ever do that, so I guess I'll just keep deleting those articles.
bbabis 6
My ad blocking is through my router system and covers all devices on my network. I can view all sites with no warnings and best of all no ads. Might be an option on yours.
The adblocker thing is unfortunate. I read these on my work computer during lunch. I have no ability to un-adblocker my machine or network. I wouldn't even care about paying a dollar but I'm guessing my network will block it anyway. Seems like an archaic model for ad revenue but that's for a different forum.
Greg S 3
They gotta pat the bills somehow.
Jimmy Robinson 3
One thing I do when that happens and I can't get around it is to press ctrl+A to highlight every thing, copy it with ctrl+C, than paste it into a Word document. This usually works and lets me read the article. It's curious though, I have Adblocker Plus in Firefox and have no problem with unless I use a Firefox private window. Then, Fox News gives me the adblocker message and will not allow me to read or even click on an article link. Can't copy it if I can't access it.
rob chandler 1
I do something similar, except I copy/paste the link into Tor Browser.
Jim Welch 3
Just click on “Reader View” at the top of the article.
Lance Neward 4
Let's talk about the Tenerife accident, not the shortcomings of your system, your decisions, or your wallet
I remember that crash like yesterday. If you can, read Terror at Tenerife by Norman Williams and George Otis. Written by a survivor.
Chrome incognito mode works for me, for what it's worth.
John Danish 1
Yup, me also
Greg S 14
It's also useful to recognize that, even after all the improvements after this crash, we still have similar incidents today, at least in the US. We've had a spate of runway incursions, a few of which were quite serious including one collision that miraculously caused no fatalities or serious injuries. And, including in that case, we've had takeoffs without clearance in cockpits with both a pilot and copilot.
bbabis 9
Because our party-line communication system hasn't changed since radio was invented.
granddadsam 7
This crash would likely not have happened if the ATC controllers had been Royal Air Force. Back in the 1960's, when I trained, R/T phraseology was designed rigidly to prevent ambiguity. The phrase "take-off" was never used except on one specific occasion.

A pilot made his take-off request with the phase "callsign, ready for departure". If take-off was approved, the controller would instruct the pilot "callsign take-off (with runway direction and wind velocity)". The pilot would read that back before taking the runway, and that was the only time when he was allowed to utter the phrase "take-off".

If the take-off was not authorised, the controller's response was "Negative, hold", which, again, the pilot would read back. All beautifully simple, safe and unambiguous.

From what I remember of the Tenerife incident, R/T quality was poor, especially at one end of the runway. At the good (or better) end, the first 747 was given take-off clearance in the usual Canarian way - not the RAF way.

At the other end of the runway the pilot requested take-off using that phrase and was told by ATC "You are not clear take-off." The pilot received broken R/T and all he heard through the static was "take-off"'

The rest, sadly, is history.

Listening to ATC/pilot "chat" from all over the world, I note many systems are still slack, non-specific and ambiguous.
Alan Perry 5
A transcript of the radio traffic is easy to access in the Wikipedia article on the incident.

Where ATC messed up is the directions that they gave the PanAm 747. Their choice of taxiway was hard for the flight crew to find and a hard turn for the aircraft to make.
Mark Ebben 4
I always use "departure". ATC will be the 1st to use it "Take off", then I'll use Cleared for "Take Off" runway xx and my tail number N1234N.
IIRC, one of the aircraft mistook a sharp turn as a taxiway (it should've dawned on him that, no, this is TOO sharp a turn, it can't be a taxiway), and so it was crossing the runway that the other aircraft was taking off from. They weren't both trying to take off. The heavy fog made it impossible for the taking-off aircraft to see the one crossing its runway until, of course, it was too late.
sparkie624 2
I disagree with you... The German A/C Captain at that time was tired of waiting and went anyway even after the other plane on the other end of the runway was cleared for take off. I do not blame ATC in anyway shape or form. It was foggy and they could not see the runway or the planes. It is clearly the fault of the German Captain who operated out of order.. ATC was not in anyway at fault with this.
Alan Perry 7
The KLM captain was Dutch. But, yeah, he was antsy to get going and heard what he wanted to hear from ATC and intimidated the rest of the flight crew into not challenging him.
James Simms 3
He took fuel there rather than later because the crew was running out of available hours to fly. Getting fuel later would have eaten into that time, plus he was somewhat arrogant from what I’ve read.
sparkie624 1
Yes... He was very arrogant!
Jay Cee 1
I place the greatest blame on the terrorists who bombed the Gran Canaria Airport and forced way too many planes to divert to Tenerife. Neither of these two planes would have been there were it not for the terrorists.
Jim Allen 3
How long will it take clearances to be delivered via ACARS? I’m just asking.., I’m a civilian. ACARS seems to be a solution. Then again, you can just put a signal light at the threshold. Green means go. Knowing our system.. it would just stay at yellow as CYA.
sparkie624 0
Acars messages are like text messages on your phone.. You get a strong signal it is pretty quick, the weaker the signal the longer it takes... Normally it does not take too long, I would say between a 30 seconds to a minute, maybe quicker.
tim oneil 3
Got some good details from Wikepedia:
Raul Lopez 4
I was born only two years before the crash so no memories of my own, but still today is a big point of discusion between elderly people.
Apart from the large number of deaths, a bitter point in the story is that the new airport in the south of the island was about to be inaugurated. If the bomb warning in Gran Canaria had been made only a few months later then all traffic would have been diverted to that new airport and the situation that led to such a tragic accident would certainly not have arisen.
Carlos Lopez 2
Very sad day for the aviation industry. RIP.
sparkie624 3
I remember that one Clearly... That is one of the incidences that heavily influenced CRM!
D4D77 7
Not only influential in aviation. Lessons learned have influenced the healthcare/medical industry, and likely others. Training in team-based decision-making is (albeit slowly) replacing hierarchical systems in many industries.
tam nelson 1
"Despite air disasters and incidents such as this involving the needless destruction of aircraft and loss of lives, they are necessary in making the aviation industry a safer place for not only passengers but pilots, as they act as case studies in ways of how to better train pilots"...Really? Trial and error?
KevinLeonte 1
Saw this one on History Channel's Air Disasters... it was a good episode and they did a pretty decent job recreating the accident and the miscommunication errors.
KevinLeonte 1
Sorry it was Smithsonian Channel, not history channel and the episode was: Season 10, Ep. 3 - Disaster At Tenerife
AJ Mesalic 1
Disagree with the last statement in the article that disasters are *necessary* to improve safety. Research the FMEA technique for predicting safety issues and adapting/accounting for them in the design process. The number of lives that engineers have saved by foreseeing problems is incalculable, but obviously it is a valuable design discipline.
46 years ago! Uhhhhhm, a little late on this announcement...don't ya think? Like about nine months late!!! This happened March 27 1977 - please do the math :)
You should ease up. The article did NOT say 46 years ago today. Had that been the case, you would have had a legitimate beef.
You are correct, sir. But it did say "46 years ago"...and failed to say "46 years ago last March 27th". Easing up wouldn't be any fun LOL!
sparkie624 1
Yes, but we can still learn from it.
I agree!


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