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The Mount Erebus Disaster

  • The beginning of sighting flights to Antarctica

    Air New Zealand and Qantas began offering sightseeing flights over the Antarctic in February 1977
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    The Timeline of the Mount Erebus Disaster

    This timeline shows the key events surronding the crash of NZ Flight 901 into Mount Erebus Copyright Notice: All images in this timeline are property of the New Zealand Police, permission must be sort from them before using the images
  • Pre-Flight Navigation Briefing

    Captain Jim Collins and First Officer Greg Cassin, part of the flight crew rostered on Air New Zealand's 28 November Antarctic flight, attended a route qualification briefing. Material presented at the briefing, including printouts of a flight plan used for a previous trip, gave the impression that the route would take them over the flat sea ice of McMurdo Sound
  • Navigational Data Change

    In the early hours of 28 November a navigational coordinate in the flight plan presented at the briefing was changed. The airline’s navigation section believed it was making a minor adjustment, but a typing error some 14 months earlier meant it had actually shifted this point some 27 nautical miles to the east. Instead of the route taking Flight TE901 over flat sea ice, as Collins and Cassin had been briefed, it would take them directly over Mt Erebus
  • 0830hrs - Flight 901 Departs New Zealand

    Air New Zealand Flight TE901 left Mangere airport, Auckland, for its 11-hour return flight to Antarctica
  • 1245hrs - Last communication with Flight 901

    First Officer Greg Cassin advised Mc Murdo Station that the aircraft was at 6000 ft in the course of descending to 2000 ft
  • 1249hrs - Flight 901 crashes into the side of Mt Erebus

    1249hrs - Flight 901 crashes into the side of Mt Erebus
    Four minutes and 42 seconds after its last communication with McMurdo Station Flight 901 crashed into the lower slopes of Mt Erebus, killing all on board.
  • 0115hrs - Advising the public

    Air New Zealand Chief Executive Morrie Davis advised the media that wreckage had been sighted near Mt Erebus, with no sign of survivors.
  • Final confirmation

    Final confirmation
    Final confirmation that there were no survivors came after three New Zealand mountaineers, Keith Woodford, Hugh Logan and Daryl Thompson, were lowered onto the crash site by US Navy helicopters.
  • Operation Overdue

    Operation Overdue
    US Navy helicopters flew the chief air accident investigator, Ron Chippindale and other key members of the party to view the crash site first hand
  • Recovering the flight data recorders

    Flight 901's flight data recorders are recovered and flown to McMurdo Base
  • Ending the operation

    Ending the operation
    The site investigation and recovery operation in Antarctica was complete. The investigators had recovered the flight data recorders and other instruments, including the cockpit flight panel. The disaster victim identification teams had recovered 114 substantially intact bodies, 133 bags of human remains, and countless personal belongings.
  • Intialcoroner's inquest into the disaster

    A special inquest is opened into the deaths of the 257 people on board Flight TE901. At the conclusion of the inquest, on 30 January, the coroner found that no one could have survived the crash, and confirmed that the 44 people who had either not been positively identified or whose bodies had not been recovered from the crash site had been on the flight
  • Creation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry

    Calls for a public inquiry into the disaster lead to the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, to which Justice Peter Mahon was appointed to conduct the inquiry.
  • The release of the Chippendale Report into the disaster

    Chippendale concluded in his report that ultimately the flight would have proceeded safely had the pilot not descended below the minimum safe altitudes specified Air New Zealand.
  • Release of Mahon's report into the disaster

    In the section summarising 'the cause of the disaster' Mahon argued that 'the occurrence of any accident was normally due to the existence of a variety of factors'. He asserted that in this case there were 10 factors, and the disaster would not have occurred had any one of them not been present. He cleared the air crew of any responsbility for the accident and blamed Air New Zealand in engaging in a conspiracy to 'whitewash' the inquiry
  • Court Action

    Air New Zealand challenged Mahon's accusation of 'an orchestrated litany of lies’ in the Court of Appeal. The Court concluded that Mahon had breached natural justice by not allowing those accused to respond to the allegations and that he had acted outside his jurisdiction. His order of costs against the airline was quashed. Mahon subsequently resigned from the High Court bench in early 1982.
  • Recognition of the efforts of the recovery teams

    Further recognition finally came in November 2006 with the institution of the New Zealand Special Service (Erebus) Medal. The medal was instituted ‘to recognise the service of those New Zealanders, and citizens of the United States and other countries, who were involved with the extremely difficult and very unpleasant, hazardous, and extreme circumstances associated with the body recovery, crash investigation and victim identification phases of Operation Overdue'.
  • 25th Anniversary of the disaster

    Coordinated church services are held throughout New Zealand observing the 25th anniversary of the crash
  • Air New Zealand apologises

    Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe apologised to those affected by the tragedy for Air New Zealand's failures and for its treatment of families of the victims.