Flight TE901 to Antarctica

Air New Zealand poster advertising their Antarctic flights for November 1979.

Flight TE901

On its first Antarctic flight in February 1977 Air New Zealand conducted a survey which revealed something of passengers' motivations for making the trip. The majority (44%) said they saw it as 'the opportunity of a lifetime'; others wanted to do it because it was 'something different' (18%), or they were attracted by the adventure-exploration aspect (12%).

Even more is known of the passengers on the ill-fated flight of 28 November 1979. Their lives were pored over by the media in the days and weeks after the crash. Tragic stories emerged of passengers who had won tickets in competitions or had received them as gifts from husbands, wives, parents and grandparents.

Stories also emerged of people who could have been aboard, but chose an earlier flight or decided not to go. Garry Hampton, a travel agent, was invited by Air New Zealand to go on the flight for a familiarisation trip, but about a week beforehand he was told that it had been overbooked.

While most of the 237 passengers on TE901 were New Zealanders, the trip also attracted overseas passengers, including:

  • 24 Japanese
  • 22 Americans
  • 6 British
  • 2 Canadians
  • 1 Australian
  • 1 French
  • 1 Swiss

Captain Jim Collins was assigned to command the flight, with two first officers, two flight engineers and a cabin crew of 15. One of the flight engineers, Gordon Brooks, and a purser, Russell Scott, were the only crew members to have flown the Antarctic route before. Peter Mulgrew, an unofficial crew member included in the passenger count, had made the journey before - it was his fourth time serving as commentator.

Next page: The route qualification briefing 

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