Apocalypse on the Runway: Revisiting the Tenerife Airport Disaster

The wreckage of Pan Am flight 1736 burns at Los Rodeos Airport as survivors scramble to safety. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
A spectacular view along the coast of one of the Canary Islands. (Hotels.com)
N736PA, also known as “Clipper Victor,” the Pan Am plane involved in the accident. (Wikimedia user Aero Icarus)
PH-BUF, also known as “Rijn,” the KLM plane involved in the accident. (Wikimedia user clipperarctic)
A banner promotes independence for the Canary Islands. (Unknown author)
(Google + own work)
Los Rodeos Airport (known today as Tenerife North). (Advartis Tenerife Properties)
A map of the airport, with the locations where the 747s were parked. (ALPA)
Captain Jacob van Zanten, as featured in a KLM advertisement. (KLM)
An actual photo of the two 747s on the ground in Tenerife on the day of the accident. (FAA)
Fog rolls over a mountain on Tenerife. (TenerifePhotos)
A map of the movements of the two planes. Note the locations of the four exits. (Wikimedia user Mtcv)
Confusion is evident as the Pan Am crew tries to figure out where to exit the runway. (ALPA)
An ALPA diagram explains why the 747 could not have entered the main taxiway from exit 3. (ALPA)
A critical excerpt from the CVR transcript reveals the moment the KLM crew almost avoided their mistake, but did not. (ALPA)
This section of the transcript approximates what was audible on the KLM CVR. (ALPA)
This incredible animation of the crash appeared in the TV show “Mayday”. Unlike with most animations, no disclaimer about accuracy is needed; as far as anyone knows, this is pretty much what the collision looked like. (Mayday)
This artist’s impression by Matthew Tesch in Macarthur Job’s Air Disasters: Volume 1 also captures fully the horror of the collision.
Survivors flee for their lives as Pan Am flight 1736 burns to the ground. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
The fog clears over Los Rodeos to reveal the burning Pan Am 747. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
Pieces of KLM flight 4805 lie scattered across the runway. (The Telegraph)
After the fire was extinguished, this was all that remained of Pan Am flight 1736. (PA Images)
A full page spread from Macarthur Job’s Air Disasters: Volume 1 features a collection of newspaper headlines from the day after the accident.
An aerial photo captures the wreckage of both aircraft. (CORR/Stringer)
Wreckage of KLM flight 4805. (Unknown author)
A gendarme approaches the remains of KLM 4805. (Tony Comiti)
Some of the KLM’s engines came to rest in the grass alongside the runway. (PA Images)
An aerial view of the Pan Am wreckage. (CORR/Stringer)
Recovery crews examine the tail section of KLM flight 4805. (The Telegraph)
A section of what appears to be the Pan Am’s fuselage skin lies next to the wreckage of the KLM. (Tony Comiti)
All that remained of the KLM’s center fuselage section was a burnt out shell. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
A man stands inside one of the surviving engines of Pan Am 1736. (The Telegraph)
Coffins line the floor in a hangar where the wreckage and victims were brought after the crash. (Ullstein Bild)
Panorama of the KLM wreckage. (History of Yesterday)
Another closeup view of the remains of the Pan Am. (C. Mulder)
The center wing section of the KLM. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
Aerial view of the center section of KLM 4805. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
A memorial park, monument, and plaque in three languages were installed in honor of the victims on the 30th anniversary of the disaster. (TripAdvisor)

--

--

Analyzer of plane crashes and author of upcoming book (eventually™). Contact me via @Admiral_Cloudberg on Reddit or by email at kylanddempsey@gmail.com.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Admiral Cloudberg

Admiral Cloudberg

8.9K Followers

Analyzer of plane crashes and author of upcoming book (eventually™). Contact me via @Admiral_Cloudberg on Reddit or by email at kylanddempsey@gmail.com.