Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Looking Back at the Los Rodeos Airport Disaster

Yesterday was the 40 year anniversary of the 27 March 1977 Los Rodeos Airport disaster (Canaary Islands, Spain) where two 747 jets collided on the runway.  Total dead, 583.  It was the deadliest accident in aviation.

Few ever sit down and analyze the accident and understand what exactly started around 15-odd problems to occur.

At some point in the morning....a bomb goes off at the primary airport in Tenerife....at a flower shop.  The bomb was set by CIIM....a local group who were hyping up independence for the island chain (from Spain).  They'd actually been around for 13 years....but in January of 1977....had decided to go for bombs to make their impression.  The first was set off in a airline office at Tenerife (no one dead or injured).  The flower shop episode on 27 March? Only eight wounded.

Spanish authorities reacted that morning and decided that Tenerife's airport was not safe.  So they rerouted incoming aircraft to land at an alternate runway.....Los Rodeos.

Los Rodeos did have an exceptionally long runway (11,000 ft long)....but there a long list of problem issues in terms of being a major airport.  No ground radar existed at the time.  On the day of the accident, the ground lights weren't working.  This was an airport which had a history of fog which would roll in and give very limited viability.  On this particular morning....with low expectations of traffic for the day....there were only two guys for air traffic control (it was a Sunday).

The KLM flight (the other was Pan Am) would have had one chance to lift off and possibly fly over the Pan Am 747....except they'd done something untypical for them....they'd loaded the plane completely with fuel.  A plane with the normal fuel load....would have been lighter, and given them this one opportunity to fly over the top of the Pan Am plane.

There's a list of problems here...at least fifteen odd issues which triggered the crash to occur.  But I tend to go back to the CIIM bomb and ask some stupid questions.

CIIM is an odd group.  All they wanted was Canary Island independence from Spain.  No one ever cites much in terms of public support on the islands for the group.  Their base of operations?  This is strangely enough....Algeria.  Roughly two years after this accident, caused mostly by the CIIM bomb, a public statement is issued by CIIM in that they are ceasing operations and the 'struggle'.

Who financed CIIM?  That's the amusing thing to this story.  No one has ever gone back to dig into the group or ask about the financing.  The fact that they lead to Algeria....makes you wonder if there were some Warsaw Pact country and their secret service-type group helping to run CIIM, and if this accident draw a lot of review and unsettled the political agenda at work.

Without the flower shop bomb?  None of the events of the day would have unfolded.

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