Sleepy Air Canada pilot mistook Venus for plane, took jet into dive

An Air Canada jet sits on the tarmac.

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.

Sixteen passengers and crew were hurt in the January 2011 incident, when the first officer rammed the control stick forward to avoid a U.S. plane he wrongly thought was heading straight toward him.

“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.

“This occurrence underscores the challenge of managing fatigue on the flight deck,” said chief investigator Jon Lee.

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 (305 meters) 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 airliner dropped about 400 feet before the captain pulled back on the control column. Fourteen passengers and two crew were hurt, and seven were taken to hospital in Zurich. None were wearing seat belts, even though the seat-belt sign was illuminated.

The safety board said the crew did not fully understand the risks of tiredness during night flights.

The first officer, whose young children often interrupted his sleep at home, had napped for 75 minutes rather than the 40-minute maximum laid down by airline regulations. This meant he fell into a deep sleep and was disoriented when he woke up.

The report is yet another problem for Canada’s largest airline, which has been facing prolonged labour unrest and flight cancellations.

Air Canada, expressing regret that passengers were injured, said it had taken steps to prevent a recurrence.

The steps include reminding pilots to follow the rules for napping during flights and increasing efforts to heighten crews’ awareness of fatigue and its effects.

“Air Canada has developed a special fatigue report form for use in its safety reporting system … this enhanced system should be in place in summer of 2012,” said spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.

The Air Canada Pilots Association – which wants Canada to limit the amount of time pilots are allowed to stay on duty – was not immediately available for comment.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels Kansas concert, condition unknown,…

Singer Miley Cyrus was hospitalized on Tuesday night after suffering what is believed to be 'a severe allergic reaction' to antibiotics medication. The 21-year-old Bangerz…

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Local

D.A. Williams opens new unit to focus exclusively…

D.A. Seth Williams announced Tuesday that he has opened a new unit focused entirely on investigating wrongful conviction claims.

Local

BSL, El to run all night on summer…

Officials announced this week that it would institute a pilot program this summer that would keep the El operational from 5 a.m. Friday morning until midnight Monday morning starting in…

Entertainment

Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels Kansas concert, condition unknown,…

Singer Miley Cyrus was hospitalized on Tuesday night after suffering what is believed to be 'a severe allergic reaction' to antibiotics medication. The 21-year-old Bangerz…

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Here's what to do in Philly this weekend

FILM 'Through a Lens Darkly'  Thursday, April 17, 6 p.m. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center 1400 N. American St. Free, RSVP required, 215-232-5678 www.philaphotoarts.org Join Philadelphia…

Arts

Peek behind the scenes at the Academy of…

Generations of visitors have marveled at the dioramas in the Academy of Natural Sciences, watching apprehensively at the puma perpetually poised to attack the unsuspecting…

U.S. Soccer

Andrew Wenger has big shoes to fill on…

Lancaster County native Andrew Wenger will feel pressure to fill the shoes of departer forward Jack McInerney.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

NBA

Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams give fans a happy ending…

The 2013-14 season for the 76ers has nearly come to a close.

NHL

Flyers must make Rangers feel their presence

Perhaps it’s the proximity of the two biggest cities in the East, because whenever these two square off the intensity seems to rise.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.

Tech

Google Glass finally goes on sale for regular…

The Google Glass finally went on sale for regular people. It only costs $1,500.