What value are commercial airliners to offshore sailors? There is the old story of laid back Californian voyagers whose only method of navigation to Hawaii was to follow airliner contrails. But other than that tall tale, airliners don't usually have much bearing on offshore sailors. Except for a recent incident off Australia when an airliner flight crew acted as a search and rescue asset and helped save a voyager who had been dismasted and was adrift with dwindling supplies.
An Air Canada Boeing 777 flying from Vancouver to Sydney, Australia, on Monday, Oct. 15, was alerted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority that it had recieved an EPIRB distress signal from a vessel 310 miles off Sydney that was sinking. Since Air Canada flight AC033 was the only aircraft in the immediate vicinity, the flight crew was asked to descend in altitude and look for the vessel in distress. Aided by a pair of binoculars borrowed from one of the passengers, the pilot of the Boeing was able to spot the solo sailor. The sailor was later picked up by a New South Wales patrol boat with the container ship ANL Benalla standing by to lend assistance.