Planes cut altitude to less than 4000ft to assist in search
A missing yachtsman adrift off the coast of Australia has been located by passengers and crew on board two commercial aircraft flying close to the area – by looking through the windows with binoculars. Planes belonging to Air Canada and Air New Zealand cut altitude to less than 4000ft (1200 metres) to assist in the search. The sailor’s remote location was out of helicopter range, but thanks to the airlines pinpointing his position he was later rescued.
Air Canada pilot Captain Andrew Robertson said afterwards that when he knew he had enough fuel to reach Sydney safely, he reduced altitude and and speed. The crew made the unusual request to passengers if they had binoculars in their hand luggage.
“As we got to about two to three miles of this yacht, the first officer said ‘there it is, I see it’. I was amazed. We didn’t know if we were looking for a sunken boat or one that was still floating.”
It was the first such search in Captain Robertson’s aviation career.