Story: Air crashes

Peter Mahon

Peter Mahon

Following the 1979 crash at Mt Erebus, a royal commission of inquiry was set up and High Court Judge Peter Mahon was appointed commissioner. His 1981 findings contradicted the air accident report, which had found the pilots of the DC10 to be primarily responsible. Mahon instead placed the blame on Air New Zealand, which he also accused of misleading the inquiry. His support of the pilots and condemnation of the state-owned airline won him folk-hero status in the eyes of many, but also strong criticism. In the controversy that followed, his judgement was reviewed by the Court of Appeal, which found he had exceeded his terms of reference. Mahon took his case to the Privy Council in 1983, but the ruling was upheld. In 1984 he published a book, Verdict on Erebus, giving his version of events. His health subsequently deteriorated and he died in 1986, deeply embittered at what he saw as unjust treatment.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library, Dominion Post Collection (PAColl-7327)
Reference: EP-NZ-Obits-Ma-02
Photograph by Ray Pigney

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Air crashes - The 1979 Erebus crash', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 2 October 2022)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 12 Jun 2006