Collision on Tenerife: The How and Why of the World's Worst Aviation Disaster

Collision on Tenerife: The How and Why of the World's Worst Aviation Disaster


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The world’s worst air disaster happened more than 40 years ago on a remote Atlantic Ocean island, when two fully loaded 747 passenger jets collided after a horrendous series of human errors.

One of the jets, KLM Flight 4805, was traveling more than 150 miles an hour and was within seconds of lifting off when it crashed into Pan Am Flight 1736 taxiing in its path. The loss of lives was staggering—583 dead. The crash happened after a lengthy series of major and minor human errors. In the intervening years, has aviation advanced to the point that such a disaster can’t happen again?

In this riveting account, written from the perspective of the passengers in the cabin as well as the crew members in the cockpits, Jon Ziomek explains how this largely forgotten accident took place—and what has happened since to reduce the possibility of another such catastrophe.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781682617731
Publisher: Post Hill Press
Publication date: 10/23/2018
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 725,522
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jon Ziomek is a former Chicago newspaper reporter and retired Northwestern University journalism teacher and assistant dean. He has been a freelance writer for more than 40 years.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The world's worst aviation disaster would not have happened without a dozen seemingly minor coincidences and mistakes xiii

Chapter 1 Introduction of Warren and Caroline Hopkins and some of the passengers on Pan American Flight 1736 as the plane prepares for departure from New York's JFK Airport. A number of the passengers don't want to be on this particular trip 1

Chapter 2 A short history of the Boeing 747 and its safety record, along with a discussion of the marketing techniques used by the airline industry and how passengers have been lulled into passively accepting the flying process 13

Chapter 3 More passengers on the Pan American plane are introduced. Many are older, and an unusual number of them are celebrating special events in their lives 25

Chapter 4 As the Pan Am charter flies toward the Canary Islands, a bomb explodes in the terminal of the Las Palmas airport. In the terminal, travel agent and tour host Gordon Brown waits for his wife, jean, who is on the Pan Am plane 31

Chapter 5 Six planes are diverted from Las Palmas to Tenerife because of the bomb. We meet the crews of two of the planes, Pan Am 1736 and KLM 4805. Both crews are highly experienced, with one important exception 39

Chapter 6 The two planes land at Los Rodeos Airport on Tenerife. Everyone waits for Las Palmas's airport to re-open so they can fly back and begin their vacations 44

Chapter 7 One of the KLM passengers decides to get off the plane at Tenerife and stay on the island for a visit, thus saving her life 59

Chapter 8 A look at what's going on aboard both airplanes as the wait continues, up until the time the Las Palmas airport reopens 61

Chapter 9 Both planes begin taxiing along the runway on Tenerife, now fog-shrouded, and a crucial series of misunderstandings intensifies 76

Chapter 10 The crews in both planes talk with the control tower, and the misunderstandings continue. The KLM plane begins rolling toward takeoff without control tower permission and without checking the position of the Pan Am plane, which is still on the runway 81

Chapter 11 Seconds before the collision, there are final opportunities in both cockpits to avoid the approaching disaster 92

Chapter 12 The KLM and Pan Am jets collide; initial airport confusion ensues 102

Chapter 13 Surviving passengers evacuate the Pan Am plane; the flight crew responds to the emergency 109

Chapter 14 A discussion of crisis behavior, with information on who can act in moments of extreme emergency. This connects to the passivity with which passengers have accepted the flying process 135

Chapter 15 A continuation of the explanation of crisis behavior, with examples from the Pan Am plane's emergency evacuation. Also, a look at how the Pan Am crew members got out of the plane 158

Chapter 16 Warren and Caroline Hopkins make their way away from the air-plane. A Spanish couple tries to help them. The Hopkinses find the Pan Am crew on the runway 177

Chapter 17 The survivors make their way to local hospitals in cabs, trucks, and ambulances 181

Chapter 18 The media respond to this worst-of-all air crashes, and in the process, one of the survivors is victimized by a reporter hot for the story 187

Chapter 19 Relatives of the survivors, and of the deceased, are contacted 192

Chapter 20 The cruise ship that has been waiting for the passengers of the Pan Am flight sails without most of its passengers 201

Chapter 21 The survivors experience difficult times in hospitals after the crash 204

Chapter 22 The survivors are evacuated from Tenerife and return to the United States 212

Chapter 23 One of the top pathologists in the United States helps with the logistics of handling the American victims of the Tenerife crash. The unidentified victims are buried in a mass ceremony in Southern California 221

Chapter 24 The study of disaster psychology and crisis behavior begins in earnest as mental health professionals become interested in the topic of emergency mental health 231

Chapter 25 Warren and Caroline Hopkins return to their suburban Chicago home to find themselves in an anguishing contrast: a warm welcome by their neighbors, who then leave them alone, while they want to be with others in order to be distracted from their memories 256

Chapter 26 Notes and news clippings about the crash and its aftermath from Caroline Hopkins's journal 262

Epilogue: The Spanish government releases its final report on the Tenerife crash, which is a turning point in increased study of passenger safety 267

For further Information: websites of photographs, videos, and diagrams 281

Acknowledgments 283

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