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Captain who saved co-pilot from burning aircraft retires

written by Adam Thorn | October 28, 2022

Air Canada’s Mike Holliday in the cockpit of an Air Canada 787-9

A Canadian captain who saved his co-pilot from the burning wreckage of an aircraft is retiring from commercial flying in Brisbane.

Air Canada’s Mike Holliday is currently mid-air at the helm of a 787-9, C-FCHZ, en route to Vancouver in what will be his last service before he hits his airline’s retirement age of 65.

It will end a storied 49-year flying career that included 35 years helming larger commercial aircraft.

However, he’s best known for being awarded the Medal of Bravery from the governor of Canada in 1985 for saving the life of his co-pilot while working as a firebomber.

“Holliday regained consciousness shortly after the Canadair aircraft he was co-piloting crashed at Dorval Airport during a demonstration flight on September 29, 1983,” reads the official account.


“Noticing that fire had broken out in the rear of the fuselage, he released his harness and crawled from the cockpit. Although fearing an explosion, he chose to re-enter the wreckage to save the pilot, who hung unconscious in his harness.

“Holliday released the harness and pulled the pilot from the aircraft, falling backwards as he did so. Ignoring his own injuries, he struggled to his feet and dragged the dead weight some 10-metres from the wreck before collapsing.

“Joined by another, he again rose and helped pull the pilot out of the danger area.”

Before his final flight, Holliday said, “Having a planeload of happy passengers. I feel eternally grateful for being able to live the airline life and fly a great plane like the 787 Dreamliner. It’s been a blessed experience.

“Thirty-five years of fun and being with crew like this has been amazing. Leaving home and coming to a city like Brisbane, I would come here every week if I could.”

He added the 787-9 Dreamliner is his favourite aircraft.

“Not only does it have incredible range to get almost anywhere in the world, it has so many innovations. Its design means it operates at a lower cabin altitude.

“That means passengers are less fatigued at the end of the flight. And the carbon fibre wings flex to create a very smooth ride.”

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