On March 27, 1977, two 747 passenger jets crashed on a runway on the Spanish island of Tenerife, killing 583 people. It remains one of the worst disasters in aviation history.
Human performance has evolved as a valuable incident prevention strategy in the utility and contractor industry. If you have studied human performance and safety management, you will see how the right training could have prevented the Tenerife incident. The purpose of this article is to explain the details of the Tenerife airport disaster and then draw lessons that can help crews in the utility industry work even more safely.
Perhaps the first thing you should know is that Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten – who piloted the Dutch KLM 747 that was involved in the crash – had served as a role model for other airline pilots. He was considered the best of the best. Having moved up to top management at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, he was even the head of safety for the company. However, van Zanten had a problem: His revered skill and knowledge made him think he knew better, which ultimately was a major factor in the Tenerife crash.