A solo yachtsman who ran into trouble in high seas off the north coast of Australia has an Air Canada flight to thank for diverting to low altitude to confirm his location, Tuesday, after he set off his emergency beacon. The sailor set out more than a week ago, and an Air Canada spokesman commented Tuesday on the role of the airliner which found the 36-foot yacht within half an hour of the beacon activation. Flight AC033, a Boeing 777 out of Vancouver for Sydney, was one of two airliners that rescue authorities estimated would pass over the sailor's transmitted GPS position. Air Canada said Tuesday that its crew quickly determined they had sufficient fuel reserves to participate "and headed out to the remote area which was over fairly rough seas." The 777 then descended to roughly 4,000 feet and, with the help of passengers, the crew started looking.
"The crew borrowed binoculars" from patrons and enlisted the aid of passengers seated on the right side of the aircraft after briefing them on the situation and their intent. As the aircraft flew low over the ocean, a reflection was spotted and the crew identified the de-masted yacht. According to Air Canada, the flight was low and close enough for the crew to see a person standing on the vessel, "which was confirmed by a number of passengers." The yachtsman had left Australia's north coast near Sydney headed for New South Wales when his vessel became disabled and drifted east. After his location was confirmed by the Air Canada flight, he was rescued. Air Canada said it commends the crew and passengers.