Dan-Air Flight 1008 was a fatal accident involving a Boeing 727-46 jet aircraft. The flight, a a non-scheduled international passenger service from Manchester to Tenerife. The crash, which occurred on 25 April 1980 in a forest on Tenerife's mount La Esperanza while the aircraft's flight deck crew wrongly executed an unpublished holding pattern in an area of very high ground, resulted in the aircraft's destruction and the deaths of all 146 on board (138 passengers and eight crew). Flight 1008 also marked the greatest loss of life in an air disaster involving a British-registered aircraft, as well as Dan-Air's second major accident in 10 years and the worst accident killing fare-paying passengers in the airline's entire history.
The aircraft, was a Boeing 727–46 (construction/manufacturer's serial number: 19279, line number: 288, registration G-BDAN (ex-JA8318)) that had its first flight in 1966. Dan-Air obtained the aircraft from Toa Domestic Airlines in August 1974. At the time of the accident, the airframe had accumulated 30,622 hours.
Flight 1008 was a charter flight from Manchester Airport, United Kingdom to Tenerife North Airport, Canary Islands, Spain. The flight was 14 nautical miles (26 km) from VOR/DME beacon 'TFN' when it was cleared onward to radio beacon 'FP' for an approach to runway 12 after it had reached 'TFN'. Initially at flight level (FL) 110, Dan-Air 1008 was then cleared to descend to FL 60. The crew reported overhead 'TFN' and was requested to join a non-standard holding pattern over the 'FP' beacon. This holding pattern was not a published procedure and the crew did not have a chart for it, but the instruction was accepted. In fact, the aircraft did not pass over 'FP' but flew to the south of the beacon and called "entering the hold". About a minute later, they were cleared to descend to 8,000 feet (2,400 m).
Although the pilot in command had said he was entering the hold according to the Spanish air traffic controller's instructions, he actually turned the aircraft to the left towards the southeast into an area of high ground, where the minimum safe altitude was 14,500 feet (4,400 m). When during the aircraft's descent towards 5,000 feet (1,500 m) the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) activated, the crew reacted quickly and initiated a climb. With the engines on full power, the aircraft entered a steep turn to the right and struck mount La Esperanza at 13:21:15 local time. The aircraft was flying in clouds when it struck the mountain.The explosion following the impact resulted in the aircraft's complete disintegration. This killed everyone on board instantly and spread debris over a wide area.
Accident investigation and cause
The official (Spanish) investigation concluded that the cause of the accident was that the pilot in command, without taking account of the altitude at which he was flying, took the aircraft into an area of high terrain and thereby failed to maintain a safe height above the terrain. However, a British addendum to the report found that tardy and ambiguous directions from air traffic control regarding the unpublished hold directly contributed to the disorientation of the aircraft commander. The addendum also found that the unpublished track onto which the aircraft was directed required tight turns to be flown. These were practically unflyable, making entry into the region of high ground inevitable for an aircraft flying this track, even without the navigational errors made by Dan-Air 1008. Further, the addendum found that the directed altitude of 5,000 feet (1,500 m) was inadequate for this holding pattern, and that the minimum altitude for entry into the holding pattern should have been 8,000 feet (2,400 m) (with a minimum altitude of 7,000 feet (2,100 m) for the pattern itself), had a minimum safe altitude calculation been performed ahead of time by a competent authority. The addendum concluded that the accident was preventable if the aircraft had not been cleared below 7,000 feet (2,100 m).
Memorial in Southern Cemetery, Manchester
A memorial in Southern Cemetery, Manchester commemorates the victims of the disaster, whose names are inscribed on a series of slate tablets within a small grassed enclosure.