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 acceptance 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.
On November 28th 1979 an Air New Zealand sightseeing flight crashed into the side of Mt Erebus killing everyone on board. Lizzie Oakes was 10 when she lost her Nan on the flight, 40 years later she talks with others whose lives have been impacted by the disaster in a series of podcasts titled Erebus Engraved On Our Hearts.
OPINION: The most telling part of the 40th anniversary commemorations for the Erebus disaster was an aside from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after she had apologised on behalf of the government.
Forty years ago, Air New Zealand chartered flight 901 to Antarctica that was supposed to show its passengers the beauties of the southernmost continent. Unfortunately, the DC-10 crashed into the side of Mount Erebus and kill the 257 people on board, making the flight the deadliest incident in the history of New Zealand. On November 28, 2019, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologized for the government’s handling of the situation at the time.
Speech by New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association President, Captain Andrew Ridling, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Mt Erebus disaster.
Audio and visual footage relating to the accident
Historic articles about the accident
A place to remember the crew and passengers of flight TE901