Air New Zealand Flight 901 – The Air Disaster at the Mount Erebus in Ross Island

On the morning of 28 November 1979, Flight 901 left Māngere airport, Auckland, for an 11-hour return sightseeing flight to Antarctica. At 12.49 p.m. the aircraft crashed into the lower slopes of Mount Erebus killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board.

Mount Erebus is the second-highest volcano in Antarctica. The volcano was the site of the Air New Zealand Flight 901 accident, which occurred in November 1979

Despite Flight 901 crashing in one of the most isolated parts of the world, evidence from the crash site was extensive. Both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were in working order and able to be deciphered. Extensive photographic footage from the moments before the crash was available

The New Zealand Government announced a further one-man Royal Commission of Inquiry into the accident, to be performed by judge Justice Peter Mahon.

The path Air NZ’s Antarctic sight-seeing flight took on November 29, 1979 when flight TE901 hit Mt Erebus (right) and the path up McMurdo Sound (left) that previous trips took

Mahon’s report, released on 27 April 1981, cleared the crew of blame for the disaster. Mahon said the single, dominant and effective cause of the crash was Air New Zealand’s alteration of the flight plan waypoint coordinates in the ground navigation computer without advising the crew. The new flight plan took the aircraft directly over the mountain, rather than along its flank.

The accident is New Zealand’s deadliest peacetime disaster, as well as the deadliest accident in the history of Air New Zealand.

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