Good morning. I'm thrilled that so many people are able to join us here today.
Before acknowledging a number of our important guests, let me begin by putting today's ceremony, and this magnificent sculpture called Momentum, in context.
No company has ever meant more to me than Air New Zealand and in a 30 year career I have never had the privilege of working alongside such talented and committed people as the people here.
I have a great passion for Air New Zealand and I believe that our airline can make a real difference for our country - not just in the role we play connecting our nation with the world, and the world to New Zealand, but also in the way we conduct ourselves and who we are as people.
This wondrous work of art created by internationally renowned Christchurch sculptor Phil Price has been designed and placed here at Air New Zealand's headquarters, which we affectionately call The Hub, as a focal point to enable anyone connected with Air New Zealand to reflect on the events that have shaped our airline, our character and our sense of identity.
Now I would like to formally welcome and acknowledge the Prime Minister John Key, families of those lost in the Erebus and Perpignan accidents, Air New Zealanders past and present, representatives of the media and all others who have joined us here at the Hub today.
For a small, remote nation at the bottom of the Earth, aviation has become essential to our way of life and our ability to be connected to family and friends and to trade with the rest of the world.
For many people, flight still has that element of magic, of awe; that promise of reaching out to explore new worlds, a sense of adventure.
And so it was for the crew and passengers of flight TE 901 that set off to fly over the amazing Antarctic wonderland almost 30 years ago.
In unveiling this sculpture today, as we approach the 30th anniversary of the loss of flight TE901 and 257 lives on the slopes of Mt Erebus and the first anniversary of the loss of five New Zealanders and two German pilots in our Airbus A320 off the coast of France, we acknowledge that it is these events that most here today will connect with this dedication ceremony. And so it should be.
We are exposed to risk every day of our lives and aviation is no exception. Despite the enormous efforts taken to minimise the risk associated with flying, we cannot eliminate risk completely and occasionally, very occasionally accidents occur.
In commercial airlines, it is virtually unheard of for an accident to happen because one individual makes a mistake or an error. There are so many checks, so many processes, so much supervision and so much redundancy designed into our systems that it takes many errors and failures to defeat all the protections that exist. This was true 30 years ago and even more so today as we continue to learn and improve what we do at Air New Zealand and across the global airline industry.
Since we lost our four Air New Zealanders, our CAA colleague and our two German colleagues off the coast of France on November 28th last year, I have spent many, many hours, days and weeks with the families of those who lost their lives in this accident, but also with those who played support roles alongside those families and felt and experienced the pain and the hurt of loss acutely themselves.
I've also spent time with accident investigators and with our own staff and customers.
In the hours immediately following the tragedy in France, it was apparent to my team and I that whatever caused the accident had already been determined and nothing we could do would change that.
But where we could make a difference was in how we supported those who had suffered the unimaginable loss of a Dad, husband, partner, uncle, brother, son, colleague or best friend in tragic circumstances.
We could also do everything in our power to learn from the accident and ensure that all those who fly in future, can fly more safely as a result of the improvements that are made once we discover the mysteries of what caused this accident.
Yet if we turn the clock back 30 years and reflect on the events following the Erebus tragedy, sadly the historical record displays what appears to be a different priority - the pursuit of someone or something to blame.
One of the hardest things I have had to do in my time at Air New Zealand is listen to Maria Collins, the wife of Captain Jim Collins and Ann Cassin, the wife of Co-pilot Greg Cassin, describe their experiences in the days, months and years after flight TE 901.
Their late husbands were chosen for this very popular mission because they were two of Air New Zealand's best pilots.
Captain Collins and First Officer Cassin were highly regarded aviators. They deserve our respect and they certainly have mine.
But despite the media focus on Captain Collins and First Officer Cassin this is not a story of two families. We had other great crew on that flight and 236 passengers from New Zealand and around the world. Ultimately, hundreds of families lost loved ones in this tragedy and all suffered an equal loss. I have now heard and shared the perspective of a number of those who lost loved ones, particularly in the past fortnight as I have engaged with families over how to appropriately commemorate the 30th anniversary of the tragedy on the slopes of Mt Erebus.
A number of these families feel they were let down by Air New Zealand in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Without doubt thousands of Air New Zealanders worked tirelessly in the days, months and years after the loss of TE901 to support families.
The enormity of this tragedy was over-whelming for Air New Zealand and the nation and we had few of the resources that we have available on so many levels today. As a result Air New Zealand inevitably made mistakes and undoubtedly let down people directly affected by the tragedy.
I can't turn the clock back, but as I look forward, I would like to start this next step in our journey - by saying sorry. Sorry to all those who suffered the loss of a loved one or were affected by the Erebus tragedy and who did not receive the support and compassion they should have from Air New Zealand.
I hope that the events following the loss of our men in the A320 accident off the coast of France have shown that we have learned from the past and grown as an airline.
Over the past few weeks our endeavours to mark the 30th anniversary of Erebus have drawn significant attention, and I understand this.
But it saddens me that many remain fixated by a desire to debate and attribute blame. This serves us no purpose, the lessons have been learnt, yet there are some who continue to aggravate the suffering and the pain of those who lost loved ones in this tragedy, while adding nothing new to the debate.
In my eyes it is deeply disrespectful to those who lost their lives. It is disrespectful to their families and to all those who worked so tirelessly in the search and rescue teams, in the police, in the mortuary, in victim identification teams, in supporting the families and in the accident investigations. These people directly affected by this tragedy deserve our support to help them come to terms with this tragedy to the degree that is possible - it's time to put people first!
It is my profound hope that when we formally mark the 30th anniversary of Erebus and the 1st anniversary of Perpignan with events on November 28 in Auckland, Christchurch, Antarctica and France that we as a nation are able to stop looking in the past and look to the future and to how we as New Zealanders are able to best support those in our community who have suffered the tragic loss of loved ones, whether it's a very private loss or a tragedy in the public arena like an aircraft accident. It is moments like these that allow us to define who we are as people, what is important to us and how we treat and support each other in our communities.
Without diminishing the significance of the Erebus and Perpignan tragedies in Air New Zealand's history it is important to recognise that these tragedies sit alongside other tragic events in the history of Air New Zealand, TEAL and NAC and also so many magical moments that have shaped the Air New Zealand of today.
Momentum captures these through the way it brings to life the magic of flight.
And to highlight just a few of the magical moments:
The arrival of the flying boats that connected New Zealand seamlessly with Australia and the Pacific Islands. Air New Zealand ushering in the jet age and opening new routes around the globe to allow a nation of intrepid travellers to explore new horizons.
The smiles we bring to the faces of thousands of children with serious illnesses with Koru Care flights, carrying Her Majesty the Queen on a commercial service and bringing home sporting trophies like the America's Cup and national treasures like Sir Ed Hillary from his adventures or charity activities around the world.
Air New Zealand and our nation are inextricably linked.
Momentum creates an opportunity for us to reflect on those special moments that link New Zealand and Air New Zealand through our shared history.
I would now like to invite Prime Minister John Key to say a few words before Momentum is officially blessed.
NOTE: The content of all Air New Zealand media releases are accurate at the time of issue, as stated at the top of each release. For updates on any changes, please contact Air New Zealand.
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