Interessante weetjes over luchthaven Los Rodeos: foto van de gedenksteen

Interesting Facts About Los Rodeos Airport

There is really only one obvious means of transport to travel quickly and comfortably to Tenerife in today's time: by plane. The safest mode of transport in the world. If you suffer from a fear of flying, it may take some persuasion. But the alternative, sailing a few days on a ferry from mainland Spain to Tenerife, is very cumbersome.

Precursors of Spa Resorts

Nevertheless, the first tourists had to travel to Tenerife by ship. Due to the quality of the water and the clean air, Tenerife was already a prominent destination for health tourismat the end of the 19th century . This is how the first Sanatorium Hotels were created, mainly located in the north of the island. These Sanatoriums can best be compared to contemporary Spa Resorts. The most famous of these is probably the Hotel Taoro in Puerto de la Cruz, built in 1888. Even when legendary Agatha Christi stayed there, in 1927, she had to travel by steamboat to the island.

Los Rodeos Airport – a polemic beginning

In 1935 permission was given by the government to build a small hangar on the Los Rodeos pasture, just under the smoke of La Laguna. Before this, the plot was already used for stopovers between the American continent and Europe. In July 1936, General Franco departed from this makeshift airport to start the Spanish Civil War . An interesting detail is that the construction of the airport was partly carried out by forced laborers from that Civil War.

However, it took until the 1960s and 1970s before tourism, as we know it today, began to flourish.  

A series of unfortunate coincidences

This week marks the 45th anniversary of one of the world's deadliest plane crashes at Los Rodeos. The circumstances of the accident resemble a horrific movie script:

On  Sunday, March 27, 1977, at 1.15 pm, 8 people were injured at the airport of Gran Canaria when a bomb, placed by a separatist movement, explodes. Shortly after the first explosion, a message arrives that second bomb is hidden. This leads in the immediate closure of the airport. As a result, several planes have to divert to Los Rodeos on Tenerife.

Flight KLM 4805 – arriving from Amsterdam, and Pan Am 1736, en route from Los Angeles, with a stopover in New York – are both on their way to Gran Canaria when they are ordered to divert to the now overcrowded airport at Los Rodeos. They land at 2 p.m. and 2.25 p.m., respectively, pending further instructions.

The airport of Gran Canaria is released around 3 p.m. . The Los Rodeos taxiway is now full of diverted aircraft. Due to lack of space, the runway therefore also serves as a taxiway.

What happens next is history. The KLM flight is ready at 4.50 p.m. to continue it's flight to Gran Canaria. The aircraft has meantime been refueled, probably to save time for the return journey. The Pan Am flight is scheduled to depart immediately after KLM. Meanwhile, the weather is not cooperating: a thick fog builds up.

As a result, the crew of the KLM flight has no view of the runway and, due to a miscommunication with the control tower, starts the take-offHowever, Pan Am is still taxiing on the same runway.

The KLM aircraft, which has just lifted off the ground, hits the Pan Am aircraft in the right flank at 5.06 p.m. . Both planes catch fire and ultimately 583 people are killed.

Stairway to heaven

On March 27, 2007, a beautiful memorial is erected in memory of the victims. This was made by the Dutch artist Ruud van de Wint, who unfortunately passed away 10 months before the unveiling of this 18 meter high monument. His artwork, a spiral staircase connecting earth and sky, is located on the Mesa Mota, a hill opposite the Los Rodeos airport. Nowadays the airport is called Tenerife Norte.

Airport Reina Sofia / Tenerife Sur

The drama resulted in the construction of a new airport in the south of the island, where the weather conditions are much better.

On October 23, 1978, Reina Sofía (now Tenerife Sur) was opened. International flights were banned at Los Rodeos for a long time, giving a huge boost to Tenerife South airport. As a result, tourism expanded more and more in the south of the island. For information about transport from both airports, click here

Nowadays,Tenerife Sur niet alleen de belangrijkste luchthaven  van het eiland, maar tevens één van de drukste van Spanje.

So much for a piece of history about Tenerife.

Stay safe and Hasta Pronto

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