Aviation’s worst disaster, the terrible KLM / Pan Am accident at Tenerife, was due in great part to schedule pressure problems experienced by both flight crews. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) conducted an eighteen month, three country investigation of this accident, with an emphasis on the human factors of flight crew performance, ALPA found that the KLM crew had strong concerns relating to duty time, specifically that they would be able to return to Amsterdam that evening and remain within their duty time regulations.
They also expressed concern about the weather and its potential to delay the impending take-off. The cockpit voice recorder indicated the KLM captain said, “Hurry, or else it [the weather] will close again completely”.
Pan Am’s crew was equally concerned with potential weather delays. They were detained for more than an hour due to the KLM flight crew’s decision to refuel. The KLM aircraft and fuel trucks blocked the taxiway, thus preventing Pan Am’s departure. These schedule related problems set the stage for the catastrophe that followed.
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