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Were the Tower Controllers watching football?

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This is a very important question. The crash is now over 29 years ago, and to this date no one has provided an answer.

Is there evidence to suggest the controllers were watching football? In my opinion there is. Let’s have a look:

  • Firstly, the tower controllers said ‘uh’ and ‘ah’ repeatedly in their sentences. Were they paying full attention to their work? For example:



O.K. KLM eight zero - ah - correction four eight zero five taxi straight ahead - ah - for the runway and - ah - make - ah - back track.

  • The tower spoke twice to the KLM aircraft using the wrong name. At 1704:58.2 and 1705:53.4 they called them  ‘8705’. KLM’s correct ident was ‘4805’.
  • Why was the Pan-Am crew ordered to take exit C3 and not C4? It would have been difficult, if not impossible to successfully negotiate exit C3 in a Boeing 747. C4 would have been much easier.
  • Why give the KLM the order to make a backtrack? It would have been much easier for the KLM aircraft to take exit C4 as well, and continue along the taxiway to the runway threshold.
  • The CVR-transcript contains the following statements at two points: (1702:08.4 and 1702:59.9)

"(background conversation in the tower)"

          In the Dutch comments on the Spanish report we can find the following:

‘The background noises in the tower transmissions, which suggest a football match, were not analysed in the Spanish investigation.
These background noises are also audible on the cockpit voice recorder of the KLM aircraft.’

  • And what can be made of the most famous sentences from this disaster? Why did the tower controller say ‘OK’, then wait for 2 seconds, and then say 'Standby for takeoff, I will call you’? Were they paying attention to their work? Why the word 'OK' when Meurs had said that they are ‘at take-off’?



Ah roger, sir, we're cleared to the Papa Beacon flight level nine zero, right turn out zero four zero until intercepting the three two five and we're now (at take-off). (1706:17.9)

ca. 1706:13


We gaan. (We're going)






No .. eh.



Stand by for take-off, I will call you.

  • Last but not least, on 22nd March 2002, two eye witnesses came forward. They declared in a Dutch newspaper that they were at the airport when the collision happened. One of them, a woman, was a friend of the girlfriend of the director of the airport. The director is said to have gone to his girlfriend and spoken cursingly, also reportedly saying:

“The idiots in the tower we’re listening to a football match, how is it possible? They know that's forbidden. The idiots." After that: "Please girls, keep this information for you, don't say it to anyone, or I will murder you. Please, be silent.”




25 years after the crash, the friend of the girlfriend has told the complete story to a journalist. The journalist asked her why she had kept this important piece of information to herself for all of 25 years. She responded that she was afraid, and also that she wanted to avoid trouble with the Spanish Authorities because she was afraid of losing her visa.


It's very difficult to draw a conclusion on this. However, based on the information available, our opinion is that the controllers were watching football. From the CVR we draw the impression that they were not paying much attention to their work. When we combine this with information given by the eyewitnesses, the opinion that the controllers were watching football is quite plausible. Can we be sure? Let's be honest: No


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