The Tenerife Air DisasterWith normal flights operating from all over Europe and the Atlantic, 27 March, 1977 could have been similar to other spring days at La Palmas Airport. However, that afternoon at 1:15, the commuter terminal was thrown into bewilderment after explosion of a bomb planted in a florist’s shop in the terminal concourse (Watchnluv, 2010). The government was cautioned about these 15 minutes before, hence, no one was killed though many buildings were damaged, and eight people harmed, one critically. Later, administrator of the Spanish airport was telephoned by a spokesperson for a Militant Canary Islands Independence Group from Algeria in north Africa, claiming accountability for the bombing and hinted that a second bomb was planted somewhere in the airport (Watchnluv, 2010).
The airport was closed by the local police after hearing this and did not take any more chances, awaiting thorough look for the second alleged device. Consequently, all intercontinental arriving flights were sidetracked to Los Rodeo Airport in Tenerife. KLM Boeing 747-206B PH-BUF RijnOne of the flights that were supposed to be sidetracked was a licensed trip flown by KLM’s Boeing 747, PH-BUF.
It had left Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, that morning at 9:31 a. m. local time controlled by KLM as Flight KL4805 representing the Holland International Travel Group carrying 234 passengers running away from unfavorable weather in Northern Europe for the sun-drenched weather of the Canary Islands (Watchnluv, 2010). Captain Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten, KLM’s chief training Captain for Boeing 747s was in command of 4805. Nonetheless, most of his time was spent in simulators teaching other pilots. PH-BUF landed at Los Rodeos Airport at 1340 hrs GMT after its four-hour trip from Amsterdam, across Belgium, France, and Spain.
Watchnluv (2010) stipulates that the enchanted Canary Islands was unsuccessful to maintain its good weather since passengers in the KLM 747 were welcomed with the presence of low cloud sand light rain, and light fog threatening over the airport in the distance. Diverted aircraft had already occupied apron area, and a section of the taxiway hence; the 747 was directed by the controller to leave the runway through the very last crossing taxiway and to park their plane on the holding region subsequently to a Norwegian Boeing 747 (Watchnluv, 2010).
A DanAir 727 and a Sata DC-8 touched on the ground shortly afterwards and the two were directed to park in the similar region. Pan American Boeing 747-121 N736PAThe Pan American 747 landed at 1:45 pm local time and parked in the same holding region, parking straight at the back of KLM 747. N736PA had come from Los Angeles, where 364 commuters had boarded Pan American Boeing for the first stage of a licensed flight to Gran Canaria (Watchnluv, 2010).
They had flown direct from New York to Kennedy Airport after departing LAX late the previous afternoon. The aircraft was refueled, more 14 passengers boarded and there was a change of crews. The aircraft left for Las Palmas after 90 minutes on the ground. The crews were informed of the temporary closure of the airport on approaching the Canaries six hours later and diverted to Tenerife’s Los Rodeos airport (Welsh, 1981, p. 1027). Victor Grubbs, a Captain of Pan Am, noted from the Spanish air traffic controller’s instructions that Las Palmas was anticipating to be reopened in a short period of time and asked to possibly be placed in a holding pattern until it open knowing that his aircraft had more than enough fuel reserves.
His demands were rejected and thus, N736PA had to land and unite with the rest of the waiting airplane on the ground at Los Rodeos (Watchnluv, 2010).