Last week Air Canada flight AC033 was finishing a routine flight from Vancouver to Sydney, when it was suddenly pressed into service of a completely different nature. The Boeing 777, which carried 270 passengers at the time, was nearing the end of its 14-hour journey when the Australia Maritime Safety Authority requested the plane’s help in a search and rescue operation. Heeding that call for assistance, the pilots soon spotted a boat that had been missing at sea for more than a week.
Just minutes before radioing the plane for help, the AMSA detected the activation of an emergency rescue beacon off Australia’s eastern coast. Rather than scramble an aircraft of its own, the Air Canada flight was asked to assist and the airliner dropped from 37,000 feet all the way down to 4000 feet to have a look around. It didn’t take them long to discover the source of the beacon.
The Air Canada pilots immediately spotted a damaged yacht that had been missing at sea for nine days. Captained by Aussie Glenn Ey, the ship had been caught in a nasty storm that snapped its mast and damaged its hull. Worse yet, the vessel was out of fuel, leaving it dead in the water For days Ey drifted at sea with no idea where he was located or where he was headed. All he could do was wait and hope for rescue.
After spotting the ship from the air, a commercial vessel was asked to divert its course to render aid. That boat assisted Ey until the proper authorities arrived on the scene the following day. At that time, the damaged ship was approximately 270 miles off the coast.
I wonder what the Air Canada passengers thought about their unexpected detour and massive drop of over 31,000 feet. It must have been quite an adventure in an otherwise very long and boring flight.
[Photo credit: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press]