25 Sep 2013

Air NZ to make regular flights to Antarctica

10:48 pm on 25 September 2013

Air New Zealand will next month send its first aircraft to Antarctica since the deadly Erebus crash nearly 35 years ago.

It will begin ferrying more than 2000 scientists to Antarctica each summer.

The last time it flew there was in 1979, when 257 people were killed when their sightseeing plane crashed into Mt Erebus.

While it has facilitated memorial flights with the Defence Force, its aircraft have not been used for the trips since then.

Currently, most scientists depart through Christchurch using either American or New Zealand airforce planes.

Under an arrangement with Antarctica New Zealand, the flights will depart from Auckland, and up to three return trips can occur each summer season.

Because the planes don't need to refuel in Antarctica, it means they can fly for longer in bad weather before pilots have to decide whether to abandon a flight.

Currently, pilots have to make that call three to five hours into the eight-hour journey.

A test flight will occur early next month, and then a charter schedule will be finalised.