After waiting the best part of 40 years after being called a liar and a perjurer in the Mahon report, I finally wish to put the record straight and tell my side of the story before the present storyline gets enshrined in New Zealand history as "fact".
I was the captain of the first Air New Zealand DC-10 flight to Antarctica after the two charter flights that the company had flown in conjunction with other commercial interests from Dunedin. Prior to that flight, I attended a full route-clearance briefing, a full flight-simulator exercise where the instrument arrival procedure into the McMurdo area was practised, and a briefing on the documentation that was required for the flight.
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I was also briefed on the flight plan that was to be flown, especially the leg in from the Cape Adair area to the McMurdo non-directional beacon as this part of the track was over Mt Erebus, where the minimum safe altitude was 16,000ft. Descent below this altitude was only to be commenced when clear of the mountain, and then only to 6000ft when in visual flight conditions.
I had a professional flight crew with me and the flight was carried out as per the plan with good weather forecast for our arrival. This turned out to be so and we cruised in over Erebus at the minimum safe altitude until we were past it to the south, where I descended in visual conditions to 6000ft. After showing the Scott Base area and McMurdo station to the passengers, the air traffic controller invited me down to do a low flypast for them but, as 6000ft was my minimum briefed altitude, I thanked him but declined his offer.
We stayed in the area until our fuel remaining was down to our return requirement for the flight back to Christchurch on two engines, should the need arise, and then climbed back up to our planned cruising altitude, still in visual conditions, to complete the flight as planned.
I was eventually required to give an account of my flight to the Mahon inquiry and I did so as detailed above. That was my total involvement in the hearing until the Mahon report was published when he called me a liar and said I had descended to some crazy altitude at McMurdo, as had other crews who had flown down there. As everyone as well as myself had done it, the report said, Captain Jim Collins was entitled to do it also.
Along with my fellow executive pilots, I was then "grounded" and left in limbo while the police started an investigation which, unknown to me, was now centred on proving I had committed perjury.
To this end the NZ Police scoured the world looking for audio or visual evidence that would prove I was down at a very low altitude but, in three months of effort, could only come up with a recording of Peter Mulgrew describing our flight around the Scott base area just as I had already told them.
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The two detectives investigating me were right out of their depth as they knew nothing about how a large commercial jet operated or how a flight crew managed the flight but still managed to try to introduce "new" evidence about my supposed low flying and perjury before finally giving up and admitting they had no other evidence to discuss with me.
Some time later, I was advised that I could go back flying, but of course after approximately three months on non-flying duties, Mahon's report still contains the false accusations about me even though his report has never been as accepted as the Chippindale report has.
I have only touched the surface of the enquiry and its aftermath and I have left personalities out of it but the story being accepted as "gospel" in its present form is far from the truth.
Mahon did not want the truth about my flight because it totally destroyed his theory that Collins was in no way to blame for the accident.
He was prepared to sacrifice me and other executive pilots in order to remove any blame from the flight deck duo of captain and first officer, though any professional pilot knows full well where the blame for the accident truly lies.
• Maynard Hawkins was a pilot with TEAL, which became Air New Zealand, from September 1963 after 12 years with the RNZAF. At the time of the Erebus disaster, he was the training manager for domestic and international operations at the airline.