A sleepy Air Canada pilot first mistook the planet Venus for an aircraft, and then sent his airliner diving toward the Atlantic to prevent an imaginary collision with another plane, an official report said on Monday.
The incident occurred at night on board a Boeing 767 twin engine passenger plane flying from Toronto to Zurich in Switzerland with 95 passengers and eight crew.
The report said the first officer had just woken up, disoriented, from a long nap, when he learned from the pilot that a U.S. cargo plane was flying toward them.
“The FO (First Officer) initially mistook the planet Venus for an aircraft but the captain advised again that the target was at the 12 o’clock position (straight ahead) and 1,000 feet below,” said the report.
“When the FO saw the oncoming aircraft, the FO interpreted its position as being above and descending towards them. The FO reacted to the perceived imminent collision by pushing forward on the control column,” the report continued.
The safety board said the crew did not fully understand the risks of tiredness during night flights.
Tip: Strange Times
Venus. WHAT a troublemaker.
Have you SEEN it in the sky these past few months? It’s impossible to miss. Venus is so commonly mistaken as a mystery light or UFO. Now, we see even a trained professional showing that everyone can mess up on occasion under certain conditions. No one is immune from making perception mistakes. Not pilots, not police, not doctors, not scientists. We all make mistakes. Remember that the next time tells you the witness was “credible” or a trained observer.
More from CNN.
UPDATE (18-Apr-2012): Just a clarification though, he initially mistook Venus as an aircraft. The reason why he dove was a misinterpretation of the actual aircraft coming at them, it appears. See the report here.