Archive for March 27th, 2008

It was March 27, 1970 when the Concorde made its first supersonic flight, but airplanes not yet off the ground are the subject of Today’s History Lesson and are what dominated the news for months following this date in 1977.  The Canary Islands are famous for tourism and vacation getaways, but the island of Tenerife is also known for the deadliest airline disaster not connected with September 11, 2001.

In the mid-afternoon hours, two Boeing 747’s collided on the runway, killing nearly 600 passengers and crew.  The two jumbo jets started at opposite ends of the airport’s only runway, one taxiing, one taking off.  They met near the middle and collided just as the one jet was lifting off.  I was eight years old at the time, but I still remember it to some degree.  I vividly recall the issue of “Time” magazine with the big “How Safe?” cover sitting on our attic steps and me looking through it over and over again.

Investigators would later uncover a myriad of causes that led to the horrific effect, including fog, misunderstood and squelched communications, an impatient pilot, and an airport forced to handle aircraft that it really wasn’t designed to take.

I think there’s a ton of garbage on TV, but amongst the trash are a couple gems.  One such nugget is on the National Geographic channel and is called “Seconds From Disaster“.  The show takes all kinds of incidents (the Mount St. Helens eruption, F1 legend Ayrton Senna’s death, the crash of the afore-mentioned Concorde, etc.) and meticulously dissects the events leading up to them.  One of the episodes I watched detailed the Tenerife disaster, and I found it to be very revealing.  Look for that episode and watch it.  I believe it’s also possible to order episodes from National Geographic, so that may be an option as well.

Also, on this day in 1965, my parents were married.  Happy 43rd anniversary!!!

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