AirCanada Flight AC033 and its crew and have been credited with the quick response in helping locate a distressed sailor off the Australian East coast. The plane, which was en route from Vancouver to Sydney, was diverted to the location of the emergency beacon by the Australian Maritime Authority.
“The Boeing 777 was the closest asset to us, said AMSA spokeswoman, Jo Meehan in reference to the plane’s close flightpath to the emergency beacon which was activated about 500 kilometers (270Nm) from the city of Sydney.
With its 270 passengers and 18 crew members on board, the large passenger plane dropped to 5000 feet and helped locate the small yacht with the aid of binoculars provided by the passengers.
“I made a PA announcement to ask the passengers to watch for the boat because it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
“Almost right away, my first officer spotted something, So I went from 5,000 down to 3,700 feet … and they saw what they thought initially were three people on the deck, but it turns out there was only one,” said Captain Robertson, the plane’s captain.
Canadian singer and songwriter Jill Barber who also happened to be on the flight tweeted
“It was not what I’d call an uneventful @AirCanada flight to Australia, very impressed with the response of captain, crew, and passengers!”
The yachtsman was later rescued by a The ANL Benalla, a merchant vessel which provided shelter from strong winds until police vessels from Sydney could arrive and carry the sailor home.
According to the Australian Maritime safety authority, commercial flights are not commonly called upon in search and rescue missions as most incidents are not that far from the rescuers.
Although the detour caused a 90-minute delay, there were no complaints but rather much relief from the passengers.