Air Canada helps find troubled yacht off Australia

Associated Press

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Stranded Sailor Saved, Thanks to Jet Passengers

Stranded Sailor Saved, Thanks to Jet Passengers

TORONTO (AP) — An Air Canada passenger flight bound for Sydney helped pinpoint the location of a yacht in trouble off the coast of Australia.

A solo yachtsman left Pittwater, on Sydney's northern beaches, two weeks ago heading for Eden on the New South Wales south coast. An emergency beacon was activated early Tuesday with the man reporting that his boat had been drifting away from land.

Because of the remote location, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority asked two airliners passing over the man's GPS position to confirm his whereabouts.

An Air Canada Boeing 777 flying from Vancouver diverted from its course to check on the distressed yacht. 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.  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."

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