Mate of aviator killed in crash says Air NZ declined Air Force briefing on whiteout.

The podcast and video series Erebus Flight 901: Litany of Lies? runs on on weekdays from Monday November 18 to Thursday November 28, the 40th anniversary of the Erebus disaster. Each day we'll highlight a key moment from the podcast transcript of that episode. You can listen to all the episodes in the NZ On Air-funded series in the iHeart player below or catch up on all our coverage of the disaster at

Rex Mangin always had an uneasy feeling about flying to Antarctica. That's why he never volunteered to be one of the pilots who did. And when his mate Jim Collins piloted the plane that crashed into Mount Erebus on November 28 1979: "I can imagine myself being in his shoes and exactly the same thing happening. If I had been given the same information that Jim was given, [it] would have been me.

"When the Antarctic flights were mooted, people volunteered to do it, and I didn't volunteer. And I was frequently asked why. I just had an uneasy feeling about it I didn't think it was being set up properly.

"Little rumours abounded. There was one about the Air Force. The Air Force had been flying to the ice for a long time, they knew all about it. [Their] offer [of] knowledge and experience was declined, because Air New Zealand would do it all from their in-house knowledge. Well, they didn't have any in-house knowledge of Antarctica, as far as I know.


"Whiteout. That's what killed Jim Collins and everybody else. Air New Zealand knew nothing about it. The pilots were apparently not briefed about whiteout, had no knowledge of whiteout. And in Antarctica, it's a major factor. Because the Air Force was prepared to tell them about it, apparently.

Kate Hawkesby: National Erebus Memorial a classic example of bureaucrats ignoring the experts
Erebus memorial taken off fast track: Decision delayed until after local body elections
Premium - Government pushed ahead with Erebus memorial at a site its consultants said was a poor option, documents reveal
Erebus Memorial mix-up: Wrong plans shown to public at special consultation, says local politician

"If you really wanted to point the finger, you can say he [Collins] should have checked every waypoint. But they'd have been a long time getting airborne, because that would take an hour or so. He'd be there forever. But you didn't. You assumed that the flight plan you were given was correct. And lots of people in the nav[igational] section had checked it, so yes, it would be correct.

"Much has been made about the waypoints being changed and the pilot not being told. There was yet another correction the night before [the flight]. Which was probably put on the flight plan, which was given to Jim Collins that morning [of the flight], which had different coordinates in it. His mindset would be that the flight plan he was given that morning would be the one he'd been given at the briefing. He would not be looking for different coordinates.You'd assume it would be the same flight plan. But it wasn't."

Jim Collins captain of flight TE901. Photo / supplied
Jim Collins captain of flight TE901. Photo / supplied

(Antarctic scenic flights were "magnificent," Mangin says.) "They were great. They were spectacular. Customers loved it, pilots loved it. And, of course, everything went tickety-boo - until this."

(He was at home cooking crayfish he'd caught on a diving expedition when he heard the plane was missing.) "My good wife comes running out: 'oooh, there's a DC-10 overdue from Antarctica.' And that was just a horrific thing to hear, because, oh, the implications of that just suggested something awful to me."

Rex Mangin strenuously believes that Collins' widow Maria and her family still carry a stigma 40 years on. He wants her to receive a Government apology. You can hear his explanation why in Erebus Flight 901: Litany of Lies?.