Tag Archives: Pan Am

27 March 1977

A recent photograph looking west-northwest (300° Magnetic) along Runway 30 at Los Rodeos Airport (TFN), Tenerife, Canary Islands. (© Claudio)

27 March 1977: The deadliest accident in the history of aviation occurred when two Boeing 747 airliners collided on the runway on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. 583 people died.

A terrorist incident at Gran Canaria International Airport (LPA) on the island of Gran Canaria resulted in the airport being closed for flight operations. This forced many trans-Atlantic airliners to divert to the smaller Los Rodeos Airport (TFN) on Tenerife. The ramp and taxiways at Los Rodeos were congested and refuelers were overwhelmed by the increased traffic, which led to many delays.

A Pan American World Airways Boeing 747-121, N750PA, similar to N736PA. (Michael Gilliand via Wikipedia)

Los Rodeos Airport has only one runway, Runway 12/30, with a parallel taxiway and four short taxiways joining the two.

Pan American World Airways’ Flight 1736, a Boeing 747-121, FAA registration number N736PA, named Clipper Victor ¹ was ready for takeoff with 380 passengers and crew, but had to “back taxi” on Runway 12 (“One-Two”) because the parallel taxiway was jammed with airplanes. The airliner proceeded east-southeast, intending to exit the runway to the parallel taxiway after passing by the congestion around the terminal.

Also on the runway was Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (KLM) Flight 4805, a Boeing 747-206B, PH-BUF, named Rijn (“Rhine”). The KLM jumbo jet had 248 passengers and crew members on board. Flight 4805 had back-taxied for the entire length of Runway 12, then made a 180° turn to align itself with Runway 30, the “active” runway.

KLM Royal Dutch Airways’ Boeing 747-206B PH-BUF, Rijn. (clipperarctic via Wikipedia)

Weather at the time of the accident was IFR, with low clouds and fog. Visibility on the runway was restricted to about 1,000 feet (305 meters). Takeoff rules required a minimum of 2,300 feet (701 meters). What happened next was a misunderstanding between the air traffic controllers and the crew of both airliners.

The control tower instructed KLM 4805 to taxi into position on Runway 30 (“Three-Zero”) for takeoff, and to hold there for release. The Pan Am airliner was told to taxi off the runway and to report when clear. The tower controllers could not see either airliner because of the fog, and their flight crews could not see each other.

The aircraft commander of the Dutch airliner, that company’s Chief Pilot and Chief Flight Instructor, Captain Jacob Veldhuyzen Van Zanten, apparently misunderstood what was occurring and radioed to the tower that he was taking off. He then accelerated.

The crew in the Pan Am airliner heard the KLM pilot report that he was taking off, immediately turned left and ran the engines up to full throttle in order to try to get off the runway. With the KLM 747 accelerating through the fog, its flight crew belatedly realized that the other airliner was still ahead of them. Too late to stop, they applied full power and pulled the nose up trying to takeoff. The tail of their airplane actually dragged over sixty feet (18 meters) on the runway because its extreme nose up angle.

Computer-generated illustration of the moment of impact as KLM Flight 4805 hits Pan Am Flight 1736 on the runway at Tenerife. (PBS Nova)

KLM 4805 lifted off about 300 feet (91 meters) from Pan Am 1736, and because of the high angle of attack, its nose wheel actually passed over American airliner’s fuselage, but the rest of the Dutch airplane hit at 140 knots (259 kilometers per hour). Clipper Victor was ripped in half, caught fire and exploded. Rijn crashed about 250 yards (229 meters) down the runway, and it also caught fire and exploded.

All 248 people aboard the Royal Dutch Airlines airplane were killed. Miraculously, there were 61 survivors from the Pan Am Clipper, including the co-pilot, but the remaining 335 died.

Two Boeing 747 airliners collided on the runway at Tenerife, 27 March 1977. (Unattributed)

The 747-100 series was the first version of the Boeing 747 to be built. It was operated by a flight crew of three and was designed to carry 366 to 452 passengers. It is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). The interior cabin width is 20 feet (6.096 meters), giving it the name “wide body.” Its empty weight is 370,816 pounds (168,199 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 735,000 pounds (333,390 kilograms).

The 747-100 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A high-bypass ratio turbofan engines. The JT9D is a two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a single-stage fan section, 14-stage compressor (11 high- and 3 low-pressure stages) and 6-stage turbine (2 high- and 4 low-pressure stages). The engine is rated at 46,950 pounds of thrust (208.844 kilonewtons), or 48,570 pounds (216.050 kilonewtons) with water injection (2½-minute limit). This engine has a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 11.6 inches (2.428 meters), is 12 feet, 10.2 inches (3.917 meters) long and weighs 8,850 pounds (4,014 kilograms).

The 747-100 has a cruise speed of 0.84 Mach (555 miles per hour, 893 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The maximum certificated operating speed is 0.92 Mach. The airliner’s maximum range is 6,100 miles (9,817 kilometers).

The Boeing 747 has been in production for 48 years. More than 1,520 have been delivered to date. 205 of these were the 747-100 series. The U.S. Air Force has selected the Boeing 747-8 as the next presidential transport aircraft.

¹ Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 747 Clipper Victor was the very first Boeing 747 in service. It made its first commercial passenger flight, New York to London, 22 January 1970. Another airliner, Clipper Young America, was scheduled to  make that flight but suffered mechanical problems shortly before departure. Clipper Victor was substituted, but Pan Am changed the airliner’s name to Clipper Young America. On 2 August 1970, N736PA was hijacked to Cuba, and afterwards, to avoid the negative publicity, the name of the 747 was changed back to Clipper Victor.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 February 1964

The Beatles arrival at New York, 7 February 1964. N704PA is the airliner in the background.
The Beatles arrival at New York, 7 February 1964. N704PA is the airliner in the background. (Detail from Los Angeles Times photograph)

7 February 1964: At 1:20 p.m. EST, The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, arrived in America at John F. Kennedy International Airport from London aboard Pan American World Airways’ Flight 101, a Boeing 707-331, serial number 17683, N704PA, named Jet Clipper Defiance. They were welcomed by an estimated 4,000 fans and 200 journalists.

This was the performers’ first visit to the United States. During their three week tour, they were twice guests on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, with each live television appearance being watched by more than 70,000,000 persons. They performed concerts at the Washington Coliseum, Washington, D.C., and at Carnegie Hall, New York City. The Beatles returned to the United Kingdom, 22 February 1964.

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 1964 file photo, Paul McCartney, right, shows his guitar to Ed Sullivan before the Beatles' live television appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in New York. Behind Sullivan, from left, Beatles manager Brian Epstein, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr. CBS is planning a two-hour special on Feb. 9, 2014, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ groundbreaking first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” (AP Photo, File)
Paul McCartney (right) shows his left-handed Hoffner 500/1 electric bass guitar to Ed Sullivan, 9 February 1964. Behind Sullivan’s left shoulder is John Lennon. Just visible behind McCartney is Ringo Starr. (AP Photo)

The Boeing 707 was developed from the earlier Model 367–80 prototype, the “Dash Eighty.” It is a four-engine jet transport with swept wings and tail surfaces. The leading edge of the wings are swept at a 35° angle.

The 707-331 had a flight crew of three: pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. It could carry a maximum of 189 passengers. It was was 152 feet, 11 inches (46.609 meters) long, with a wingspan of 145 feet, 9 inches (44.425 meters) and overall height 42 feet, 1 inches (12.827 meters) at its operating empty weight. The leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces are swept 35°. The fuselage has a maximum diameter of 12 feet, 8.0 inches (3.759 meters). The -321B has a typical empty weight of 142,780 pounds (64,764 kilograms), and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 327,000 pounds (148,325 kilograms). The usable fuel capacity is 23,855 gallons (90,301 liters).

Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 707-331 N704PA, Jet Clipper Defiance, at Stockholm, July 1966. (© Lars Söderström)

All 707-series aircraft are powered by four jet engines installed in nacelles below and forward of the wings on pylons. N704PA was powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT4A-12 two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a 2-stage fan, 15-stage compressor (8 low-, 7 high-pressure stages) and 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). It was rated at 14,900 pounds of thrust ( kilonewtons), maximum continuous power, and 17,500 pounds of thrust (77.844 kilonewtons) at 9,355 r.p.m. (N₂) for takeoff. The engine was 12 feet, 0.1 inches (3.660 meters) long, 3 feet, 6.5 inches (1.080 meters) in diameter, and weighed 5,100 pounds (2,313 kilograms).

The 707-331 had a maximum operating speed (MMO) of 0.887 Mach, above 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). At 24,900 feet (7,590 meters), its maximum indicated airspeed (VMO) was 378 knots (435 miles per hour/700 kilometers per hour).

At MTOW, the 707-331 required 10,840 feet (3,304 meters) of runway for takeoff.

The Boeing 707 was in production from 1958 to 1979. 1,010 were built. As of 2013, just ten 707s were still in service.

Jet Clipper Defiance was originally registered to Trans World Airways as N771TW, but never delivered. (It carried a Trans World Airlines model number, 707-331, rather than a Pan American code, 707-321.) It was then sold to Pan Am, delivered 23 March 1960 and registered N704PA. Late in its career, it was leased to several smaller airlines.

Pan Am sold N704PA to Air Vietnam (Hàng không Việt Nam) 21 December 1973. It was registered XV-NJD. After the Fall of Sài Gòn, 30 April 1975, Pan American reacquired the airliner, and then resold it to Aerotron Aircraft Radio, Inc., Long Beach, California. It was re-registered N9230Z. This registration was cancelled 8 January 1976. Jet Clipper Defiance was scrapped at Long Beach inJune 1977.

Hàng không Việt Nam‘s Boeing 707-331, XV-NJD, c/n 17683, at Kai Tak International Airport (HKG), 8 December 1974. (VOLPATI/Wikimedia Commons)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 January 1970

Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Pan American Clipper Young America, watercolor by John T. McCoy. (SFO Museum)

22 January 1970: Captain Robert M. Weeks and crew flew the Pan American World Airways  Boeing 747-121, N736PA,  Clipper Young America, New York to London on a 6 hour, 43 minute inaugural passenger-carrying flight of the new wide-body jet. Aboard were a crew of 20 and 335 passengers. This painting showing the arrival at London Heathrow Airport, is by John T. McCoy.

Crew members of the first Pan Am Boeing 747 to arrive at Heathrow. (Rolls Press/Pepperfoto/Getty Images via The Guardian)

The 747-100 series was the first version of the Boeing 747 to be built. It was operated by a flight crew of three and was designed to carry 366 to 452 passengers. It is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). The interior cabin width is 20 feet (6.096 meters), giving it the name “wide body.” Its empty weight is 370,816 pounds (168,199 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 735,000 pounds (333,390 kilograms).

The 747-100 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A turbofan engines which can produce 47,670 pounds of thrust, each, with water injection (2½ minutes). Its cruise speed is 0.84 Mach (555 miles per hour, 893 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) and it’s maximum speed is 0.89 Mach (588 miles per hour/946 kilometers per hour). The maximum range at MTOW is 6,100 miles (9,817 kilometers).

The 747 has been in production for 49 years. As of December 2018, 1,548 747s of all models had been built. 205 of these were 747-100 series aircraft.

The Boeing 747 was MUCH BIGGER than the Boeing 707 that it replaced. (CBS News/Boeing)

N736PA had initially been named Clipper Victor, but the name was changed to Clipper Young America for the inaugural New York to London flight when the 747 scheduled to make that flight—Clipper Young America—suffered mechanical problems. The 747 was hijacked on 2 August 1970 and flown to Cuba. After that incident, N736PA was renamed Clipper Victor — its original name. It was destroyed in a collision with another Boeing 747 at Tenerife, Canary Islands, 27 March, 1977.

Pan American Airways' Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Clipper Young America, at London Heathrow Airport, 22 January 1970. (Getty Images via BBC History)
Pan American Airways’ Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Clipper Young America, at London Heathrow Airport, 22 January 1970. (Getty Images via BBC History)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 January 1981

One of the first Boeing 707 airliners delivered to Pan American World Airways, Clipper Maria, N707PA. (Pan Am)
One of the first Boeing 707 airliners delivered to Pan American World Airways, N707PA. (Pan Am)

3 January 1981: Pan American World Airways retired its last Boeing 707 airliner. Pan Am had been the launch customer for the 707. On 20 October 1955 the airline ordered twenty 707s, and later ordered 130 more. The first one, Clipper America, a 707-121, N707PA, was delivered 15 August 1958. On 26 October 1958, N711PA, also named Clipper America,¹ made the first regularly scheduled transatlantic flight by a jet airliner.

Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 707-121, N711PA, Clipper America, arriving at Aéroport de Paris–Le Bourget, Paris, France, 27 October 1958. (Photograph © Jon Proctor, used with permission)

The Boeing Model 707-121 was a four-engine jet transport with swept wings and tail surfaces. The leading edge of the wings were swept at a 35° angle. The airliner had a flight crew of four: pilot, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer.

The 707-121 was 145 feet, 1 inch (44.221 meters) long with a wing span of 130 feet, 10 inches (39.878 meters). The top of the vertical fin stood 41 feet, 8 inches (12.700 meters) high. The 707 pre-dated the ”wide-body” airliners, having a maximum fuselage width of 12 feet, 4.0 inches (3.759 meters). The airliner’s typical operating empty weight is 122,500 pounds (55,565 kilograms). Maximum take off weight is 257,340 pounds (116,727 kilograms).

Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 707-121 Clipper Constitution, N708PA. This was the very first production 707. (Pentakrom)

The first versions were powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3C-6 turbojet engines, producing 11,200 pounds of thrust (49,820 kilonewtons), and 13,500 pounds (60.051 kilonewtons) with water injection. This engine was a civil variant of the military J57 series. It was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 2 stage turbine. The JT3C-6 was 11 feet, 6.6 inches (3.520 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.9 inches (0.988 meters) in diameter, and weighed 4,235 pounds (1,921 kilograms).

At MTOW, the 707 required 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) of runway to take off.

The 707-121 had an economical cruise speed of 550 miles per hour (885 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), and a maximum cruise speed of 593 miles per hour (954 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)—0.87 Mach. It’s range was 2,800 nautical miles (5,186 kilometers).

The Boeing 707 was in production from 1958 to 1979. 1,010 were built. Production of 707 airframes continued at Renton until the final one was completed in April 1991. As of 2011, 43 707s were still in service.

Pan American World Airway's Boeing 707-139B, N778PA, Clipper Skylark, along with many of her sisterships, in storage at Marana Air Park, Arizona.
Pan American World Airway’s Boeing 707-139B, N778PA, Clipper Skylark, along with many of her sister ships, in storage at Marana Air Park, Arizona. (Goleta Air & Space Museum)

¹ At least three Pan Am 707s carried the name Clipper America. N709PA was renamed Clipper Tradewind. N710PA, was renamed Clipper Caroline. N711PA was renamed Clipper Mayflower.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 December 1988

Clipper Maid of the Seas, Pan American World Airways' Boeing 747-121, at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) 12 March 1987. (Ted Quackenbush via Wikipedia)
Clipper Maid of the Seas, Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 747-121 N739PA, takes off at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) 12 March 1987. (Ted Quackenbush via Wikipedia)

21 December 1988: Pan American World Airways’ Flight 103 was a scheduled transatlantic passenger flight, originating at Flughafen Frankfurt am Main (FRA) with stopovers at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), with a final destination of Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW).

The first leg from Frankfurt to London was flown with a Boeing 727. The transatlantic segment of Flight 103 was flown by a Boeing 747-121, N739PA, named Clipper Maid of the Seas. It departed Heathrow at 1825 hours UTC, with 16 crewmembers and 243 passengers. The 747 climbed to the north and leveled off at at 31,000 feet (9,449 meters) at 1856 hours.

At approximately 1903, a time bomb which had been placed inside luggage carried in the airliner’s cargo hold detonated. Explosive decompression magnified the effects of the bomb. The airliner broke into five large sections and fell to the ground at the town of Lockerbie, Scotland.

The impact crater of Boeing 747 N739PA at Sherwood Crescent, Lockerbie. The wings and fuselage center section struck here, 49.5 seconds after the explosion. 200,000 pounds (91,000 kilograms) of jet fuel ignited, destroying many homes. (Martin Cleaver/syracuse.com)
The impact crater of Boeing 747 N739PA at Sherwood Crescent, Lockerbie. The wings and fuselage center section struck here, 49.5 seconds after the explosion. 200,000 pounds (91,000 kilograms) of jet fuel ignited, destroying many homes. (Martin Cleaver/syracuse.com)

All 259 persons on board the 747 were killed, as were another 11 persons on the ground.

The time bomb is believed to have been placed aboard the airliner by agents of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, acting on orders of the Brotherly Leader and Guide to the Revolution of Libya, Muammar al-Gaddafi. One of these, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, was convicted of 270 counts of murder in a Scottish criminal court seated in The Netherlands. The defense twice appealed the case, but prior to a decision in the second appeal, al-Megrahi dropped his appeal and asked to be released from jail because it was believed that he would very soon die of cancer. The Scottish court did release him and he returned to Libya on 14 August 2009, on board Colonel Gadaffi’s personal aircraft. He reportedly died 20 May 2012.

Boeing delivered N739PA to Pan American 15 February 1970. The airliner was originally named Clipper Morning Light. At the time of the bombing, it had accumulated 72,464 total flight hours.

The forward section of Clipper Maid of the Seas, near the village of Tundergarth, Scotland.
The forward section of Clipper Maid of the Seas, near the village of Tundergarth, Scotland.

The 747-100 series was the first version of the Boeing 747 to be built. It was operated by a flight crew of three and was designed to carry 366 to 452 passengers. It is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). The interior cabin width is 20 feet (6.096 meters), giving it the name “wide body.” Its empty weight is 370,816 pounds (168,199 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 735,000 pounds (333,390 kilograms).

The 747-100 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A high-bypass ratio turbofan engines. The JT9D is a two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a single-stage fan section, 14-stage compressor (11 high- and 3 low-pressure stages) and 6-stage turbine (2 high- and 4 low-pressure stages). The engine is rated at 46,950 pounds of thrust (208.844 kilonewtons), or 48,570 pounds (216.050 kilonewtons) with water injection (2½-minute limit). This engine has a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 11.6 inches (2.428 meters), is 12 feet, 10.2 inches (3.917 meters) long and weighs 8,850 pounds (4,014 kilograms).

The 747-100 has a cruise speed of 0.84 Mach (555 miles per hour, 893 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The maximum certificated operating speed is 0.92 Mach. The airliner’s maximum range is 6,100 miles (9,817 kilometers).

The Boeing 747 has been in production for 48 years. More than 1,536 have been delivered as of September 2017. 205 of these were the 747-100 series. The U.S. Air Force has selected the Boeing 747-8 as the next presidential transport aircraft.

The Names. (StaraBlazkova/Wikipedia)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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