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Antarctica flight delayed for third time

Tuesday 19 Nov 2013 4:43 p.m.

A landing in Antarctica by an Air New Zealand 767 has been delayed for a third time in just over a month.

Bad weather stopped the first two flights, and the airline said today's landing was postponed for "operational" reasons.

If Air New Zealand can land the 767 on the ice, it will start carrying up to 200 support staff to Scott Base and McMurdo Station.

The US and Kiwi Air Forces regularly fly in and out of Antarctica, and now Air New Zealand is planning on resuming commercial flights to the ice - but first, it needs to carry out a test flight.

"To see Air New Zealand flying down again, to see that koru back down here; it could be something that we could be very proud of," says Scott Base operations manager Graeme Ayres.

C17 flight commander Brent Keenan says there are three things in particular that make it difficult to land on the ice.

"One - just being able to see the runway, because you have got nothing but whiteout; Two - fuel, 'cause there is only one runway to land on, and three -  the weather. The weather changes constantly down here."

Conditions were a whiteout in 1979 when a DC10 slammed into Mount Erebus.

Andrew Bond lost both his parents in the Erebus disaster, and was on the first flight for bereaved families.

"I was really happy what they did for us, [but] it's a shame not everyone could go," he says.

Jackie Mildenhall is one of those who will miss out.

"It's still quite raw, but not as bad as it used to be," she says.

Ms Mildenhall lost her father and uncle, and other family members have taken the allocated seats to the ice.

"I had heard maybe 30 or 40 of us left who want to go but won't get to go, and that is a shame," she says.

A third and final commemorative flight is due here in February, and Mr Bond says it will then be time to move on.

"It probably needs to come to an end," he says.

Now Air New Zealand is looking to the future, and wants to start resuming commercial flights to Antarctica for scientists and support staff.

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