We’re usde to hearing things in mid-flight from the captain like, “If you look out the windows on the left side of the plane, you’ll see the Grand Canyon!” but passengers on an Air Canada jet headed to Sydney from Vancouver heard quite a unique announcement on a recent flight. The pilot announced over the P.A. that the plane would be descending to a low altitude off the coast of Australia, and could passengers please see if they could spot a damaged yacht?
The captain of the Boeing 777 said the plane had almost reached the peak of its ascent when air traffic control in Bristbane asked if he could help out in the search, reports The Australian.
So help he did, by programming the coordinates of the needy yacht into the flight computer and heading over there. He says there was plenty enough fuel to reach the spot and we presume, head back.
He then took the plane from around 38,000 feet to just about 5,000 feet, as he knew they’d have to “get low” above the water.
“I had already made a PA announcement telling passengers what we were doing and as we got into the area, I said: “We’re coming into the search area, please everybody look out to the window and if you seen anything let us know.
The first officer spotted the yacht but couldn’t see anyone onboard so the plane dipped lower to 3,800 feet, which was when the crew identified a person. They informed search and rescue via satellite phone after calling in to air traffic control and provided all the necessary details.
That detour added 40 minutes on to a flight which was already late due to avoiding bad weather near Hawaii, a delay the captain says was vital to their part in helping the stranded boat and saving the man who’d been adrift for 16 hours at sea.
“If we had been 40 minutes earlier, we would have been on the ground,” he said, adding that he’d never been involved in that kind of search before.
Who even knew it was copacetic for passenger jets to just jump in and help like that? It’s a bit different than when your co-worker is already on the way to the vending machine and you ask for a Snickers while he’s at it.
Passenger jet in low altitude search [The Australian]