Pilot Almost Crashes After Mistaking The Planet Venus For An Aeroplane

We've all felt tired to the point of being loopy, but most of the time we're not in the cockpit of a 767, confusing a planet for another plane and sending ours into a nosedive.

Reuters reports one "sleepy Air Canada pilot" caught a glimpse of Venus, bright in the night sky, and thought it was another aeroplane coming straight for him. It's coming straight for us. Think quick, cap'n.

"Under the effects of significant sleep inertia (when performance and situational awareness are degraded immediately after waking up), the first officer perceived the oncoming aircraft as being on a collision course and began a descent to avoid it," Canada's Transportation Safety Board said.

In other words, to avoid steering his plane directly into Venus, the captain immediately plunged the 767 downwards 120m towards the Atlantic Ocean, causing passengers to fly out of their seats — seven required hospitalisation. This sounds bad and certainly highlights the problem of pilot fatigue (it is a gruelling job), but it could've been much worse: imagine if he'd crashed into Venus? [Reuters]

Aeroplane image: Brian K/Shutterstock


Comments

    I'm more worried about the implications this has for Air Canada's training regarding TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system), which gives automatic warnings even before major action needs to be taken (and provides directions to avoid early enough that you don't need to do a dive steep enough to produce negative Gs).

      Well I suspect they are trained not to fly straight into things that they can see in front of them, regardless of what TCAS isn't doing. In this case it turned out to be millions of kilometers in front of him.

        @Sean - Great point, let's destroy Venus!

      The Pilot did the right thing to avoid when he saw what looked like a plane's lights. (Remember, Venus can be very bright.) - The problem is fatigue and Back-of-the-clock flying.

      TCAS only works properly if both planes have it, or at least functioning transponders - there are limitations to the system, it cannot detect everything that may be a threat.

      Also Military planes generally have they ability to shut-down their transponders, to deny a foe using them for target acquisition. Or a plane could have had a faulty transponder, or the TCAS system could have been faulty - The pilot did the right thing here, he saw and avoided.

      If it were a real plane, and there was a fault which made TCAS fail, you don't want the pilot saying "I won't avoid that light, it can't be a plane because TCAS hasn't alarmed."

        @Glenn - I agree, better to err on the side of caution. In that respect, I am sure you agree that we must destroy Venus ASAP.

      @alphamone - That's a valid concern, but I think it wouldn't be such an issue, if we just destroyed Venus.

    And that's why you should keep your seatbelts on...

      And that's why we should destroy Venus...

        I approve of this plan.

        I'll start work on the Death Laser.

          @Sylver - Thanks for your support, I know you speak for the billions of people who can't comment on this post right now. Together, we CAN destroy Venus.

    This is not a unique event, it has happened on a number of occasions in the past. And it has happened to pilots who were not nearly asleep. The world at 30,000' at night is a very different place to the ground at any time of day. None of these events, with one possible exception, has ever caused an aeroplane to crash, and the exception was a light aeroplane with only the pilot on board.

      @EMH - thanks for agreeing with me. Anyone else think we should definitely destroy Venus?

        Agreed. I'll go for a loan for the setup costs.....$600 Billion dollars sound ok?

    It all sound questionable to me- Aren't their two people that are usually in the cockpit of the plane, and this person just happen to wake up from his sleep and out of no where comes "Venus" that's bull...Sounds lika a huge cover up to me...and I will say no more- other than, bull crap and no one can destroy Venus but Venus and destroy U....

      @Dee - Well, it looks like we have a Venus hugger in the comments. If you love Venus so much Dee, why don't you move there? And if you do, can you take this enormous bomb with you?

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