Many people ask me what was the most deadly plane crash. Well, we have it here, The crash of KLM 4805 and Pan Am 1736…
On 27 March 1977, above the Atlantic ocean…
PA 1736 is on its way to Gran Canaria, Canary Island from Los Anglese with a technical stop in New York. PA 1736 is carrying 380 passengers and 16 crew members. The flight was operated by a Boeing 747-121 registered as N736PA named as Clipper Victor. The crew includes the captain, the first officer and the flight engineer.
KL 4805 was ahead of PA 1736. The flight came from Amsterdam Schipol and also headed to Gran Canaria. A Boeing 747-206B registered as PH-BUF operated KL 4805. KL 4805 is a charter flight for Holland International Travel Group and is carrying 235 people. The captain of KL 4805 is Jacob V., KLM’s chief flying instructor. The first officer and the flight engineer was also in the cockpit.
At 13:15, at Gran Canaria Airport, a bomb explodes in the terminal, in which one person was injured. There had been a call warning of this bomb and soon another call said that a second bomb was at the airport. The aviation authorities had closed the airport temporarily after the bomb detonated and diverted all incoming flights to Los Rodeos. The control tower informs PA 1736 and KL 4805 and tells them to divert to Los Rodeos. The crew of PA 1736 tells ATC that they would rather to circle until the airport reopens. However, the ATC rejected the idea and ordered PA 1736 to divert to Los Rodeos.
At Los Rodeos Airport, KL 4805 lands first. Then, PA 1736 lands. There were 5 large airliners diverted to Los Rodeos, a small airport that couldn’t easily handle them. In that case, the planes need to stay on the taxiway. The captain of KL 4805 asked the control tower if he could disembark the passengers and let them stay in the terminal. The tower said that they will send an airport bus immediately. The captain of PA 1736 asks for the same thing. Since the terminal is already full, he is rejected. However, the ATC allows the passengers to get off into the tarmac. A few hours later, Los Rodeos was informed that Gran Canaria airport had reopened. At this point, the tower gives the aircraft startup clearances at their discretion. It has now started raining and the visibility was decreased. The captain of KL 4805 orders all of his passengers to get back on board. Meanwhile, he also orders the aircraft to be fully refueled. The captain of PA 1736 asks the captain of KL 4805 how long the refueling is going to take as KL 4805 is blocking PA 1736’s way. The captain of KL 4805 replies ’35 minutes’ before hanging up immediately. The captain and first engineer of PA 1736 gets off the plane to see if they can go around KL 4805. They found out that they couldn’t due to a lack of 12 knot clearance. At 16:30, KL 4805 is fully refueled and is given clearance to ‘backtrack’ and hold position at Runway 30. Dense fog covered the airport, making it difficult to see beyond a few hundred meters. The tower then orders PA 1736 to follow KL 4805, and get out the runway via exit number 3. First, the crew was unclear if the controller told them to take the 1st or 3rd exit. The crew asks for verification.
Tower: The third one sir. One, two, three. Third, third one.
The thick fog means that the two planes were invisible to the tower. The crew successfully identified the first 2 taxiways, C1 and C2. But nobody knows if the crew of PA 1736 had been able to spot C3, which was their intended exit. The crew of PA 1736 appeared to remain unsure of their position on the runway.
Meanwhile, the crew of KL 4805 finished backtracking. Immediately after lining up, the crew of KL 4805 advanced the throttles and the aircraft began moving forward.
KL 4805 first officer: Wait a minute, we don’t have the ATC clearance.
KL 4805 captain: No, I know that, go ahead, ask.
KL 4805 first officer to ATC: The KLM 4805 is now ready for takeoff and we are waiting for our ATC clearance.
Tower: KLM eight seven zero five you are cleared to Papa Beacon, climb to and maintain flight level nine zero, right turn after takeoff.
The instructions used the word ‘takeoff’, but didn’t include an explicit statement that they were cleared for takeoff.
KL 4805 F/O to ATC: Ah roger, sir, we are cleared to the Papa Beacon flight level nine zero until intercepting the three two five. We are now at uh… taking off.
KL 4805: We’re going… Check thrust.
Tower: Ok stand by for takeoff, I will call you.
Only the ‘Ok’ of this message could be heard clearly by the KLM crew due to a radio heterodyne.
Pan Am captain: No… Uh
Pan Am (radio): and we’re still taxing down the runway, the clipper one seven three six.
[This message was not heard completely clear by the KLM crew due to a radio heterodyne.]
Tower: Ah, Papa alpha one seven three six report the runway clear.
Pan Am (Radio): Ok, will report when we are clear.
On hearing this, KL 4805’s engineer expressed his concern about PA 1736 not being clear of the runway.
KLM F/E: Is he not clear then?
KLM captain: Why did you say?
KLM F/E: Is he not clear, than Pan American?
KLM captain: Oh yes. (Emphatic)
PA 1736 is now exiting the runway using exit C4.
Scene 1: KL 4805
KLM F/O: V1
KLM captain: Oh god…
Scene 2: PA 1736
Pan Am captain: There he is…
Pan Am F/O: Get off!! Get off!! Get off!!
KL 4805: 0
PA 1736: 61
Total Fatalities: 583
Watch the video below!