Monday, 28 November 2022

Air New Zealand's Mount Erebus disaster


Forty-Three years ago today, on the 28th of November 1979, Air New Zealand flight TE901 flew into Mount Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board.  
Flight TE901 left Auckland International Airport around 8:00 am for Antarctica and was scheduled to arrive back at Christchurch International Airport at 7:00 pm after flying 5,360 miles (8,630 km). 
The aircraft would make a 45-minute stop at Christchurch for refueling and a crew change, before flying the remaining 464 miles (747 km) to Auckland, arriving at 9:00 pm.

(At the time of the crash, Air New Zealand had two IATA codes, TE for international flights (a relic from Air New Zealand's predecessor, Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL)) and NZ for domestic flights (acquired from the merger with the National Airways Corporation in April 1978). 

Investigations concluded that the accident was primarily caused by two errors.
1. a correction made to the coordinates of the flight path the night before the disaster, coupled with a failure to inform the flight crew of the change, with the result that the aircraft, instead of being directed by computer down McMurdo Sound (as the crew had been led to believe), was instead rerouted to a path straight toward Mount Erebus.

2. The decision of the captain 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 detect the rising terrain which intercepted the aircraft's flight path.

The aircraft used on the Antarctic flights were McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 trijets. The aircraft on the day was registered ZK-NZP. 
ZK-NZP was the182nd DC-10 to be built, and the fourth DC-10 to be introduced by Air New Zealand. The DC 10 was handed over to the airline on the 12th of December 1974 at McDonnell Douglas's Long Beach plant. It had only logged 20,700 flight hours prior to the crash.

Air New Zealand had been operating a scheduled Antarctic sightseeing flights since 1977. 

Aircraft Information:
Airline: Air New Zealand
Code: TE
Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 
Registration: ZK-NZP
Serial Number: 46910
Engines: 3 x GE CF6-50C2
First Flew: 08/11/1974
Age: 5 Yrs

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