• Maurice Williamson

Almost 20 years after New Zealand's worst air disaster, the report into its cause written by the late Justice Mahon has been given official recognition by Transport Minister Maurice Williamson, who tabled it in Parliament today.

Justice Mahon led a one man Royal Commission of Inquiry into the disaster, but because his report was never tabled in Parliament, the report of the Office of Air Accident Investigations has been the sole official account.

"Today is one of the proudest days of my life. Although the time for pointing blame has passed, I believe it's time we formally acknowledge the debt we owe Justice Mahon and one way of doing this is to give his report the recognition it deserves," said Mr Williamson.

"On November 28 it will be 20 years since flight 901 flew into the side of a mountain many of us had never heard of before - Erebus. I think I'm right in saying that none of us will ever forget where we were when we heard the news: a DC10 missing with 257 people aboard."

"In recalling that day, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the house today of three women whose lives were changed forever by the Erebus disaster," said Mr Williamson.

"Mrs Maria Collins and Mrs Anne Cassin, the widows of pilot Jim Collins and co-pilot Greg Cassin, and Mrs Margarita Mahon, the widow of Justice Mahon.

"Justice Mahon was vilified by some but to me he was one of New Zealand's true heroes. His report stands as a major contribution to our aviation history and deserves official recognition," said Mr Williamson.

"Some people may say why bother after all this time. I have no better explanation than this: 'Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it'."

Mr Williamson said the Mahon report broke new ground in New Zealand and internationally.

"What it showed was that an accident sequence was like someone slipping down a knotted rope. The pilot's decision may be the last knot in the rope, but there are many other events which set up the accident sequence."

The International Civil Aviation Organisation cites the report as pioneering in its recognition of systematic accident investigation.

"It says the Mahon Report was 10 years ahead of its time and also says that subsequent high technology systems catastrophes such as Chenobyl need not have happened if the international safety community had grasped the lessons from Erebus and adopted its prevention lessons," said Mr Williamson.

"I'm very honoured to have helped give Justice Mahon's report the recognition it deserves."