Air NZ passenger planes helps locate stranded yachtie
Thu, 18 Oct 2012 10:06a.m.
By 3 News online staff
Two passenger planes, an Air Canada Boeing 777 and Air New Zealand A320, were called in to help search for a stranded yacht off the coast of Australia on Tuesday.
The two commercial flights were diverted to look for the yacht after the solo captain set off an emergency beacon, Radio New Zealand reports.
The yacht had lost its mast and was running low on fuel, more than 200 nautical miles off the coast of New South Wales.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) says the lone yachtsman set out from Sydney’s Pittwater two weeks ago, and was too far out to sea to be reached by a helicopter once he was in distress, Fairfax reports.
So the AMSA called upon the nearby Air Canada and Air New Zealand planes to head off-course and try to locate the yacht.
The Air Canada flight spotted the yacht, and the Air New Zealand plane confirmed its co-ordinates.
A merchant ship reached the yacht last night to protect it in strong winds, before a New South Wales Police boat could arrive and take the man onboard.
The 44-year-old yachtsman is reportedly uninjured and is being taken back to Sydney.
The AMSA admits diverting commercial flights for searches is a rare event.
“It’s not a regular occurrence, but that’s mostly because incidents are much closer to shore,” a spokesperson told Fairfax.
Captain asked passengers to help
Air Canada captain Andrew Robertson says he asked everyone on the plane to help with the search.
“As we approached the area I made a PA announcement to the passengers – please help us look for [the yacht],” he told Radio NZ.
“Almost immediately, as we closed in on the area, the first officer said, ‘well I see what I think is the boat’ […] it was almost exactly where they had told us it would be.”
Canadian folk singer aboard flight
The Juno Award-nominated Vancouver folk singer Jill Barber was one of around 270 passengers aboard the Air Canada flight AC033, The Globe and Mail newspaper reports.
Barber told the paper that passengers were nervous after the captain’s announcement that they would be making a detour to look for the yacht.
“Anything out of the ordinary on a long flight like that, over the ocean, can make your heart race a little bit. So everybody was a little concerned, but also, rolling with it,” she says.
The Air Canada jet descended to a height of just 1,800 metres, from 7,500 metres, to look for the yacht.
“It was a little bit scary,” says Barber, “it felt like we were flying just above the water. We had a pretty good view, and they were tipping the plane side to side to maximise the view.”
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18/10/2012 10:20:17 a.m.
Has that yachtsman not heard of weather forcasts. This stormy weather has been happening for weeks
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