The Deadliest Aviation Accident In History

The deadliest aviation accident in history actually occurred while on the ground, not in the air. In 1977, two fully loaded Boeing 747 passenger jets collided in the middle of a runway on Tenerife Island, killing 583 people. Neither plane was supposed to be at that airport, but terrorist activity at the original airport diverted both aircraft to the Los Rodeos Airport in the Canary Islands. Heavy fog, which was a known issue with transmitters, and miscommunication between the pilots and the control center resulted in the KLM 4805 taking off without permission, while the Pan Am 1736 was still on the runway, at the wrong exit because the pilot couldn’t read the signs in the fog. Several mistakes produced a domino effect that resulted in the almost head-on collision, killing everyone on the KLM flight and 326 of the 380 passengers on the Pan Am flight. It remains as the airline crash with the highest death toll in global history.