Ballots Drawn For Remembrance Of Air New Zealand Flight 901 To Antarctica


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Ballots Drawn For Remembrance Of Air New Zealand Flight 901 To Antarctica

By Jim Douglas

October 1, 2010 - Eighty family members of loved ones lost in the Erebus tragedy will travel to Antarctica on a remembrance flight this summer after being drawn in an independently run ballot.

The Government of New Zealand announced that the Royal New Zealand Air Force will fly one of its Boeing 757 aircraft to Scott Base this summer season, enabling family representatives to spend a few hours experiencing the unique environment that drew those on Flight TE 901 to it almost 31 years ago.

The ballot was open to the immediate families of passengers, cabin crew and flight crew lost in the tragedy. It was drawn on 20 September by a senior member of the New Zealand Police and overseen by an independent auditor.


Air New Zealand Flight 901 (TE-901) was a scheduled Air New Zealand Antarctic sightseeing flight that operated between 1977 and 1979, from Auckland Airport to Antarctica and return via Christchurch. On 28 November 1979, the fourteenth flight of TE901, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 registered ZK-NZP, collided with Mount Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board.

The accident is commonly known as the Mount Erebus disaster. The initial investigation concluded the accident was caused by pilot error, but public outcry led to the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the accident. The commission, presided by Justice Peter Mahon, concluded that the accident was caused by a correction in the flight path coordinates the night before the accident, and the flight crew not being informed of the change that, instead of taking them down McMurdo Sound as they thought they were, directed them into Mount Erebus.  In Justice Mahon's report, he famously accused Air New Zealand of telling "an orchestrated litany of lies", which eventually resulted in changes in senior management at the airline. The accident today remains New Zealand's deadliest disaster.

Nearly 200 applications, representing 126 of those lost to Erebus, were received from across New Zealand and internationally. Family members who have applied have been notified in writing of the outcome of the ballot. As some of those successful in the ballot lost more than one family member in the tragedy, the eighty travelling to Antarctica represent more than 100 of those lost to Erebus. Air New Zealand has been working since late last year with the Government, RNZAF and Antarctica New Zealand, as owners of the resources required to support visits to Antarctica, on a further opportunity for family members who lost loved ones on November 28 1979.


The airline wanted to create another opportunity following feedback to the 30th anniversary commemorations last year, which saw six family representatives travel to Antarctica. At this stage it is expected that family representatives will be able to remain on the ground for several hours at Scott Base, where they will receive a briefing and participate in a memorial service at the Scott Base flagpole. There will also be the laying a Koru capsule mirroring that placed on Mt Erebus during the 30th anniversary commemorations last year. The date for the flight is still to be confirmed, as the team continues to work through a large number of operational details. The provisional date range is 11-20 February 2011.


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