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Published on Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Air New Zealand computer used to sanitise on line Erebus Wikipedai article

A report in The Press in New Zealand says that an Air New Zealand computer was used to sanitise an online Wikipedia article to make the airline look less culpable for its part in New Zealand's worst peacetime disaster.

An article about the 1979 Erebus crash on Wikipedia, an internet encyclopaedia able to be edited by users, was altered to state "pilots are divided to this day as to whether the responsibility ... should rest with the pilot or the flight planning department" over the deaths of 257 passengers and crew.

The alteration, which has since been deleted, was identified this month as coming from a computer using the Air New Zealand server.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the company was investigating the allegation.  But Cabinet minister Jim Anderton said that, if true, the change was "outrageous (and) entirely erroneous".

It was a case of the airline – now 80 per cent owned by the Government – trying to rewrite history to make itself look better.

The airline's computers were implicated through a programme devised by self-described American "destructive technologist" Virgil Griffith to identify the computer systems used by those who made alterations to Wikipedia.

Computer experts contacted by The Press also tracked the altered entry back to Air New Zealand's computer server.

Anderton has previously called on the Government to make a formal declaration that Captain Jim Collins and co-pilot Greg Cassin were not to blame for the crash.

He said yesterday that to suggest there was disagreement over blame for the Erebus crash was unjustifiable and wrong.

Maria Collins, the widow of Jim Collins, said yesterday that it was of little importance what Wikipedia said about the crash.

"Whether Wikpedia says one thing or another and who wrote it or authorised it – so much has been written that is incorrect that I have stopped jumping up and down," she said.

The Wikipedia alteration left unchanged the findings by Justice Peter Mahon's Royal Commission that Air New Zealand executives had been behind an "orchestrated litany of lies" to cover up the cause of the accident, including disposing evidence and engaging in subterfuge.

It also made no change to the assertion that Mahon's findings remained, even though the Privy Council overturned the result because he had exceeded his powers and denied the airline a fair hearing.

Anderton said the alteration suggested that Air New Zealand remained sensitive to allegations of blame for the Erebus crash.

He said pilots' associations in New Zealand and internationally had endorsed Mahon's findings and the only dissent by pilots over the fault was from those who had a "vested interest" in upholding the original accident report overturned by the Royal Commission.

New Zealand Airline Pilots Association president Mark Rammell said there was no division among pilots.

"Justice Mahon's finding, that was the official finding of the Royal Commission and that was accepted in Parliament," Rammell said.

"Our pilots are completely happy with that finding, that it was not pilot error."

Report by The Mole

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  • One thing this shows is what Wikipedia is worth

    I never trust anything published on Wikipedia (and never use it to look up information any more), simply because ANYBODY can place an article or edit one, no credentials necessary.

    By Alesse Levintle, Tuesday, August 21, 2007

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