Revisiting History: The Worst Aircraft Disaster Ever: Tenerife, Canary Islands

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

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We are approaching the 40th anniversary of the worst air crash disaster in history. It seemed like an appropriate moment to check encyclopedic sources to see what details are available and I hit pay dirt. Not only is the crash fully reported, but there is a moment-to-moment timeline available. There also was a specific precursor to the crash that is accurately timed. Time to chart!

On March 27, 1977 two chartered Boeing 747’s collided on a runway enshrouded in a massive cloud of fog. The Los Rodeos was a smaller, tourist-oriented airport. The huge planes were not supposed to be there.  Circumstances earlier that afternoon had caused them to be diverted to that location for safety reasons, along with several other flights. The diverted flights arrived around 2:00 PM, unexpectedly overloading the ill-equipped airport. Why were the flights diverted? The precursor to the disaster…

At 1:15 PM, the separatist terrorist group called the Movement for the Independence and Autonomy of the Canaries Archipelago (MPAIC) exploded a bomb in a florist shop in the terminal concourse at the Gran Canaria Terminal on a separate island in the archipelago. A subsequent phone call warned that a second bomb had been planted in the terminal building, necessitating the closing of the terminal and diversion of incoming flights. Those flights were international in scope – large aircraft. They had to go somewhere for safety’s sake, so they were sent to Los Rodeos Airport in Tenerife to await further orders. Multiple planes sat on the tarmac for several hours, stacked and positioned as was possible, in each other’s way, but safe. They arrived at Los Rodeos around 2:00 PM.

The two fated aircraft were giant 747s: one KLM Flight 4805, one Pan Am Flight 1736. Las Palmas airport began to accept incoming air traffic around 4:00 PM but the KLM flight had (at the last minute) requested refueling and was blocking the departures. It took about 35 minutes to refuel, completed at about 4:45 PM. The refueling added over forty tons of weight to the KLM plane. The additional fuel and time delay were key to the tragedy. Refueling was later found to have been unnecessary.

Before I get into the detail, two more items need to be noted:

  1. The massive, very dense cloudbank (think near zero-visibility) was due to the runway location near the coast and also ground level for that airport. Dense cloud behavior is unpredictable and unreliable, ranging from an unhindered view to white-out in only moments. This was the day, the location, the time and the circumstance for the tragic outcome to an unforgiving cloudbank.
  2. The state of radio communications and international technical jargon was a huge factor in the tragedy; miscommunication between the KLM pilot and the tower is very evident from those records, as was lack of visibility between the tower and planes and between planes stacked for storage and then taxi for takeoff.

Because we have an actual timeline (voice recorders from both planes and the control tower as the exodus began), The very heavy KLM plane was cleared onto the airport’s only runway at 4:58 PM and was in taxi-motion shortly after 5 PM. The Pan Am flight was stationary in the flight path. Neither flight crew nor control tower crew had visibility. At the last moment the two 747 crews gained some visibility and realized what was about to happen. The KLM plane tried valiantly to lift off, but it was too late. The bottom of the KLM plane struck the top of the Pan Am plane and the shearing, explosion, fire and ultimate destruction were unleashed. The crash itself occurred at 17:06:50 GMT or 5:06:50 PM, Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain). No one survived on the KLM and only a handful survived on the Pan Am – 583 people were lost in the worst air disaster in history.

The hard aspects of the charts… The precursor to the deadly crash was the terminal explosion that re-routed the planes: Mar 27, 1977, 1:15 PM GMT, Grand Canaria Terminal. The beginning of what I would see as a “cascade of errors.”

  • Ascendant 19 Cancer 57, ruler Moon in the 12th of ambush/hidden enemies 2 Cancer 30, applying square to Sun 6 Aries 45 in the 9th, midheaven 10 Aries 03, opposed Pluto 13 Libra 00 retrograde in the 4th close to the cusp, in turn opposing Mercury 18 Aries 06 in the 10th conjunct Venus 21 Aries 54 retrograde and the South Node at 24 Aries 28. Mars was the ruler of the midheaven on the 8th house side of the 9th cusp.
  • The Moon would have traveled through that T-square formation from one to the next position within 48 hours. Can you imagine the just awful aftermath that immediately took over? Even if some of the aspects were wide or separating, that transiting Moon would have activated each and every possibility.
  • Pluto in the 4th conjunct the cusp is mutually applying to the cusp, an explosive end of the matter. The explosion damaged property, but no lives were lost.
  • Saturn in the 1st 10 Leo 09 retrograde is square Uranus 11 Scorpio retrograde in the 4th. Saturn rules the 7th of the public and co-rules the 8th with Uranus, for fate or catastrophe. Saturn is conjunct the 2nd cusp and co-ruling the 8th can indicate the money/value system principle of property damage.

At approximately 2:00 PM, incoming planes were diverted from Grand Canaria to the Los Rodeos airport at Tenerife. Venus retrograde but applying had rotated to the 20 Aries midheaven, but Venus was in detriment, not at full strength to protect and also conjunct the South Node. The midheaven was still ruled by Mars, which had rotated deeper into the 8th house of fate and catastrophe. The Moon, still ruler of the 28 Cancer 10 Ascendant had rotated towards the 12th cusp, getting ready to exit the 12th house.

At 4:00 pm (ballpark) the midheaven was 21 Taurus 03, with Jupiter rotating towards the conjunction. Sounds safe doesn’t it? The fact that Jupiter was at 28 Taurus 40, conjunct the Fixed Star grouping Pleiades at 29 Taurus promised “something to weep about”. The Sun in the 8th of fate or catastrophe was ruler of the Ascendant at 23 Leo 50, The degree spread between the midheaven and Jupiter was 7 degrees and 37 minutes, approximately 30 minutes on the day’s clock… just about time to finish fueling the KLM flight.  Whatever protection Jupiter might have provided at the top of the chart moved from angular to cadent about 4:31 PM. At 4:35, the midheaven had moved to 29 Taurus 35.

While this was going on, the Ascendant had moved from Leo to Virgo at 4:29 PM and Mercury became the chart ruler. In reading the history of that day, communication was difficult at best. During the second-by-second conversation by the tower and the plane crews as the planes prepared for departure, communication was beyond ridiculous. There was marginal visibility (Mercury rules the physical senses). The primitive equipment forced the plane and tower crews to talk over the top of one another, canceling conversations randomly. They did not adhere to terminology protocol which caused absolute confusion. One mistake led to another and another, a cascading set of errors. The KLM pilot was eventually declared as the cause of the accident, but I honestly am not sure why.

The crash was audible on the tapes at 5:06:50 PM; there is no question as to moment of impact.  From the cascading error event aspects I have offered, the critical moment in which there was no turning back from what was about to happen occurred at 4:55 PM with the Descendant conjunct Mars. What had begun with fluctuating visibility quickly became what is now referred to as “white-out” fog conditions and ridiculously bad communication. The documents I accessed to do this article are given in the footnotes.

  • The 4:55 PM midheaven is 4 Gemini 23, the ascendant 5 Virgo 46, both ruled by Mercury, angles in square. The chart ruler Mercury and that entourage of cardinal placements in T-square are firmly placed across the 8th/2nd axis of fate and catastrophe.
  • Mars is angular at 5 Pisces 56 in the 7th separating from a conjunction to the Descendant. Mars now rules the 8th house of fate and catastrophe.
  • Jupiter in the 9th house of foreign involvement and transportation house axis co-rules the Descendant and rules the 4th or end of the matter/grave.
  • Uranus is in the 3rd house of transportation.
  • Neptune, co ruler of the Descendant is at 16 Sagittarius 07 is retrograde in the fourth of end of the matter/grave.

What did the crash itself look like on a chart? From the bombing chart at 1:15 PM to the crash chart is less than 4 hours; the airports are not that far apart, time zones unchanged. Except for the Moon and house cusps, chart positions/aspects changed very little.

Midheaven 7 Gemini 11, Ascendant 8 Virgo 21, critical Mars now in 6th at 5 Pisces 47. The Sun rotated to conjunct the 8th cusp.

Arabian Parts: I did check a few selected standard Parts for impact in the bombing and the plane crash charts, tight orbs. Most prominent were Parts of:

  • Catastrophe 2/MPAIAC 20 Lib 53
  • Destiny/MPAIAC 14 Cap 19 square Pluto
  • Catastrophe 1/Tenerife 12 Aries 31 opposed Pluto,
  • Fatality-Tragedy/Tenerife 11 Capricorn 35 square Pluto,
  • Death/Tenerife 8 Gem 58 conjunct Midheaven; square Ascendant
  • Journey by Air /Tenerife 14 Pisces 13 square Neptune,
  • Accident/Tenerife 12 Aquarius 33 square Uranus, opposed Saturn.

Sources: Tenerife airport disaster: Wikipedia (timing by audio tapes)

Published in AFA Today’s Astrologer Aug 2017 vol 79#8, republished with slight editing.

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