World's first flight to view the Southern Lights from New Zealand was a 'massive let down' for some

Mark Hathaway was one of the lucky few on board a flight south that checked out the aurora.

Many passengers on the world's first commercial flight to view the Southern Lights came back buzzing with excitement, but not everyone on board thought they'd got their money's worth.

The flight on a chartered Boeing 767 left Dunedin about 9pm on Thursday, then returned early on Friday. It was led by Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin.

"A number of people … may have expected something a little bit more bright, but again we got some pretty lovely photographs," Griffin said.

"Cameras are more sensitive than the eye, so they will always see more.

The view of the Aurora Australis from the plane was better than anything that would be seen In New Zealand, unless it was a really big storm, Griffin said.

It would be necessary to go to places such as Alaska and Norway to see sights similar to those seen on the flight.


The aurora's glow could be seen through the plane windows and throughout the plane and on occasions it was "pretty bright", he said. From his perspective it was a big aurora display and a positive experience.

"Because it's natural phenomena, you can't predict what you're going to see. 

"What we tried to do was convey what we thought people would see on the flight."

One comment on a story about the flight appeared to come from one of the passengers, who described it as a "massive let down".

"Was pretty disappointing. Unless you had a three thousand dollar camera couldn't take a pic of anything. Could barely see it with your eyes, didn't get told any of this before the flight either. Was guttered when after 5 hours on a plane it just looked like a cloud. Honestly felt it was a massive let down," the commenter, identified as MrSafetyCatch, said.

Efforts to contact the person who made the comment for more details were unsuccessful.

"It's sad to me someone feels that way, but we tried very hard to give people a good experience," Griffin said.

Some people on the flight with quite cheap cameras were taking nice pictures. "Some people with expensive cameras got some amazing pictures."

A review of the flight would be carried out next week and feedback would be sought. It was expected to provide ideas of what to expect if another flight was organised.

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