Passengers and crew aboard an Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Sydney helped locate a stranded sailor Tuesday, dropping to 5,000 feet to help emergency crews get a fix on his listing boat.
Because of the vessel's remote location, Australian air traffic controllers asked the Air Canada flight – a Boeing 777 – and an Air New Zealand Airbus 320 to divert from their courses.
They were the closest planes to an emergency beacon, Gulfnews.com reported.
Air Canada Captain Andrew Robertson calculated he had enough fuel, so he circled the area.
“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,” Robertson told reporters.
Passengers passed the flight crew binoculars to aid their search.
“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.”
That's OK. Only one man set out aboard the boat two weeks ago, so nobody else was missing.
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According to AAP, the solo sailor ran into trouble during a trip along the Australian coast, AAP reported.
He was losing fuel and drifting further out to sea when he made the call for help.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said there’s nothing dangerous about asking a jumbo jet to search for a missing boater.
“It's not common, but that’s not because we try to avoid doing it,” a spokeswoman told AAP.
“It’s because the nature of the incidents that we have aren’t necessarily so remote that we can only rely on the commercial airlines.”
The sailor is unhurt as rescuers made the trip to help him.
The Air Canada passengers were still buzzing about the experience despite a later arrival time.
“A lot of passengers said it was very exciting to be involved in a search like this,” Robertson said.
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