This site is the most comprehensive source of information on the 1979 Erebus disaster. It is dedicated to informing others about the plane accident that took the lives of 257 passengers and crew of Air NZ flight TE901. Please take time to browse through this site and learn about the events on 28 November, 1979.
Key facts leading up to the accident
What happened & how
From the recovery operation
Air New Zealand Scenic Antarctic flights began
Flight path fed into ground computer incorrectly
27 November - Flight path altered
Chippindale report approved for release as a public document
27 April - Mahon Report released
Acceptance of the Mahon Erebus Report by the NZ Parliament
Erebus 30 years on
In 1977, a flight path was developed by Air New Zealand for the DC 10's flight computers to fly to Antarctica via an end waypoint above the Williams field ice runway at McMurdo Station.
Upon completion of the first two Antarctic flights, the waypoint was adjusted slightly to a new position at McMurdo Station.
In 1979, the Air New Zealand navigation division fed the Antarctic flight plan into a new ground computer. A mistake was made.
For a period of 14 months, flights were programmed to safely follow a track down McMurdo Sound away from Ross Island and Mt Erebus.
A few weeks before the fatal flight, another pilot had queried the flight path after he noticed McMurdo Sound was further away than this computerised track.
After 14 months, the error was finally identified and was tragically 'corrected' the night before the accident. No one told the flight crew.
At 12:49pm (NZT) on the afternoon of November 28 1979, Air New Zealand flight 901 crashed into Mt Erebus in Antarctica. There were no survivors of the crash.
At the time, it was the fourth worst accident in aviation history.
Six months after the accident. the Chippindale report was released. It detailed the probable cause of the accident as being "the decision of the Captian to continue the flight at low level toward an area of poor surface and horizon definition when the crew was not certain of their position and the subsequent inability to identify the rising terrain that intercepted the aircraft's flight path.
The NZ Government announced a Royale Commission of Inquiry was to be conducted into the accident by Jutice Peter Mahon
The report was released on 27th April 1981, attributed the singular case of the crash process where the navigation computer co-ordinates were altered by Air New Zealand without advising the flight crew.
After 20 years, the Mahon Report was eventually tabbed in the New Zealand Parliament in 1999, which meant that the Mahon Report was officially accepted as an official government report.
The acce[tance of the report vindicated the flight crew of the blame attributed to them twenty years earlier.
June 24 - NZALPA launches the Erebus.co.nz website.
October 23 - at Air New Zealand's head office in Auckland, a memorial named 'Momentum' is unveiled as a representation of the history of Air New Zealand, including Erebus. CEO Rob Fyfe apologises to the families of victims of the Erebus tragedy as they "did not receive the support and compassion that they should have from Air New Zealand at the time."
November - Five representatives for the families of victims and crew visit Antarctica for a special 30 year Memorial Service.
The grandchildren of Captain Jim Collins and his wife, Maria, were among the youngest people in Auckland's packed Holy Trinity Cathedral when hundreds gathered on a sunny Sunday evening to honour those killed 40 years ago on Mt Erebus.
A memorial service was held tonight at Parnell’s Holy Trinity Church to mark the 40th anniversary of New Zealand’s worst ever aviation disaster.
The podcast and video series Erebus Flight 901: Litany of Lies? runs on nzherald.co.nz on weekdays from Monday November 18 to Thursday November 28, the 40th anniversary of the Erebus disaster.
This story is part of White Silence, a six-part podcast series from Stuff and RNZ to mark the 40th anniversary of the Erebus disaster. You can listen to White Silence on Stuff, or via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or any other app using the RSS feed. The episodes will be released daily from Friday, November 8.
Audio and visual footage relating to the accident
Historic articles about the accident
A place to remember the crew and passengers of flight TE901