The strains of Dave Dobbyn's hit song Welcome Home will ring out in an Auckland Air New Zealand hangar today as the bodies of four New Zealanders killed in an air crash in France are returned home.
The four men died when an Air New Zealand Airbus A320 crashed into the sea near Perpignan on November 28. Another New Zealander whose body has not been found, and two German pilots, also died.
Soon after a chartered Boeing 747 jumbo jet touches down at Auckland carrying families of some of the men killed and four coffins, New Zealand singer and song writer Dave Dobbyn will be part of a private ceremony to welcome them back to New Zealand soil.
Other passengers on the aircraft will be allowed to disembark at the international terminal before the Boeing is towed to a hangar to be welcomed home by other family members, friends and several hundred colleagues.
When the Boeing is in the hangar, the family members who stayed in New Zealand will board the aircraft to be reunited with those who travelled to Perpignan, the French city on the southern coast of France, Air New Zealand said.
After a brief reunion on the aircraft, all families will disembark for the ceremony as Dobbyn's hit song is played.
Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe will pay tribute to the four men and missing colleague Murray White and pass on condolences from Prime Minister John Key and the Civil Aviation Authority before members of the Air New Zealand kapa haka group pay a special tribute on behalf of the airline.
The airline said the families would then carry their loved ones to hearses for their journeys to their last resting place.
Two of the coffins would remain in Auckland and the other two would go to Christchurch.
Only six of the seven bodies have been recovered. The body of Mr White, 37, an Air New Zealand engineer, is still missing.
The four New Zealanders whose bodies are coming home are Air NZ Captain Brian Horrell, 52, from Auckland, Christchurch engineers Michael Gyles, 49, and Noel Marsh, 35, and Civil Aviation Authority airworthiness inspector Jeremy Cook, 58, of Wellington.
Mr Fyfe said in a statement the arrival would be an "extremely emotional time for the families and friends of the lost men, and Air New Zealanders around the world.
"Arriving home in New Zealand will mark the end of another chapter as we all come to terms with the tragedy that occurred in France," he said.
Dave Dobbyn said on such a solemn occasion "it is an honour and a privilege for me to sing Welcome Home with the bereaved families and friends of these loved ones returning.
"Our hearts go out to them and everyone at Air New Zealand," he said.
The three-year-old Airbus A320 was on final acceptance flights and was due to be handed back to Air New Zealand after a two-year charter to the German company XL Airways. It has just been repainted in Air New Zealand livery.
It plunged into the sea apparently after a power surge caused it to climb steeply and then dive in a move the pilots could not control.
Families of the victims flew to Perpignan with Mr Fyfe and held an emotional ceremony on the beach near the city. Looking out to sea from the beach they could sea where the Airbus plunged into the water.