Imagine your pilot getting on the PA with the following announcement: “…we’d really appreciate it if everyone could look out their windows and if anyone has any binoculars that could help us identify a missing yacht, it would really be helpful.” It happened yesterday when AC033, a B-777 flying Vancouver to Sydney, diverted off course to search for a missing yachtsman.
According to the AP:
Air Canada said its plane swooped down at about 1,200 meters while the crew peered out using binoculars borrowed from passengers. Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said Tuesday the crew and a number of passengers aboard flight AC033 spotted the boat and advised authorities of its location. He said the yachtsman was subsequently rescued. He said the airline commends the crew and passengers. “The pilots immediately determined they had sufficient fuel to undertake this, and headed out to the remote area which was over fairly rough seas. After apprising the customers onboard that we would assist as we were the only aircraft in the immediate vicinity, all onboard became involved in the search efforts,” Fitzpatrick said.
The crew borrowed binoculars from customers and also engaged those sitting on the right hand side of the aircraft to help look. Pilot Andrew Robertson noted that “as our aircraft flew over the area at 4,000 feet, a reflection from a mirror shining upwards was spotted and the crew saw the yacht in question, de-masted with a person standing — which was confirmed by a number of passengers. We’re doing this big sweeping right turn and almost immediately they said, ‘Oh, we see something,’ ” Robertson said. “We were totally ecstatic.” Total time from activation of the emergency beacon until he was found by the Air Canada flight: about 25 minutes. One passenger noted that “…we cheered and we applauded and I think we all kind of felt a sense of pride”.
A merchant vessel and water police arrived shortly after to assist with the rescue. An exciting detour and an on-time arrival!