A routine trip for Air Canada flight AC033 to Sydney was suddenly disrupted when the flight's path was diverted to rescue a lost sailor in the Pacific Ocean on Monday.
Flight AC033 was contacted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority after an emergency beacon signal was detected around 8:15 a.m. Monday. The plane was asked to divert its course to help locate a vessel in distress in the Tasman Sea, between Australia and New Zealand, and the plane's 270 passengers went along for the ride, according to the Globe and Mail.
"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.
The crew of the Boeing 777 descended from an altitude of 7,500 meters to 1,800 meters to look for the adrift yacht that had sent the emergency beacon, Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told the National Post.
Luckily, one of the Air Canada passengers had a pair of binoculars and spotted the lost Australian yacht.
The solo yachtsman had left the Sydney area two weeks ago but for the last week had been drifting away after losing his mast and running low on fuel, reports CBC.
The yacht was discovered about 310 miles east of Sydney, the Australian maritime authority said.
Canadian singer Jill Barber, who was on the Air Canada flight, tweeted: "It was not what I'd call an uneventful @AirCanada flight to Australia. Very impressed with the response of captain, crew and passengers!"
According to the Globe and the Mail, passengers on the plane "cheered after they were told the boat was found and a rescue plane was on its way."
An Air New Zealand Airbus 320 en route to Sydney from Auckland was also later diverted to the area and eventually an Australian rescue plane arrived and dropped a life raft and a satellite phone to the astray sailor.
"It's not common (to ask jetliners for assistance), but that's not because we try to avoid doing it," an official told the Australian Associated Press. "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."