Australian authorities are thanking Air Canada for its role in helping locate a yacht in distress about 435 kilometres east of Sydney, Australia.
An emergency beacon was activated early this morning, with a solo yachtsman signalling that his demasted boat had been drifting away from land since last week, the Canadian Press reports.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority asked two airliners passing through the area to help confirm the man's whereabouts.
"The location of the beacon was within a flight path, so we needed to assess the situation and the Boeing 777 was the closest asset available to us," Jo Meehan of the AMSA told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
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An Air Canada Boeing 777 flight en route to Sydney from Toronto diverted from its course, dropping down from its normal altitude to fly over the area, as did an Air New Zealand A320.
Air Canada tweeted that passengers aboard flight AC033 lent its crew binoculars to help spot the yacht.
According to an email to the Snipe from CBC host Grant Lawrence, husband of Air Canada passenger (and Vancouver singer) Jill Barber, everyone on the plane cheered when the boat was successfully found.
Australian authorities are thanking an Air Canada flight that helped locate a sailor in distress of the east coast of the country. John Northcott has more on the story.
"The Air Canada plane was the only aircraft in the vicinity, so the pilot announced they were obligated to search for the boat. The Air Canada jet flew RIGHT over the ocean, dipping its wings from side to side and asking all the passengers to look for the boat with any binoculars they might have with them," Lawrence wrote of his wife's experience.
Following the flights' confirmations of the boat's location, a police vessel was dispatched to the drifting, low-on-fuel yacht.
"It's not common, but that's not because we try to avoid doing it," an AMSA spokeswoman she told the Australian Associated Press of recruiting commercial aircraft to assist in a search-and-rescue effort. "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."
"We're really pleased we could help," Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitxpatrick told the Globe and Mail.
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The yachtsman is in good spirits, the AMSA spokeswoman reassured reporters.
While commercial flights rarely engage in search-and-rescue missions, this isn't the first time Air Canada has come to the rescue. Following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the airline dispatched a donated dedicated relief flight to Port-au-Prince, carrying humanitarian supplies and rescue technicians.
In 2005, Air Canada supported rescue and relief operations in areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.