Sleepy Co-Pilot Mistook Venus for US Military Plane

Report blames 'sleep inertia' for Air Canada accident that injured 16
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2012 2:31 AM CDT
Updated Apr 17, 2012 2:37 AM CDT
Sleepy Co-Pilot Mistook Venus for US Military Plane
Air Canada says it is taking steps to address pilot fatigue issues.   (Getty Images)

We've all awaken from naps feeling a little groggy and confused—but not many of us have been at the controls of a Boeing 767 at the time. An accident that injured 16 people on an Air Canada flight early last year was caused when the co-pilot—startled awake from his approved nap when the captain stated their position—mistook the planet Venus for an approaching US military plane and forced a sudden dive, according to an investigation by Canada's National Transportation Safety Board. The captain counter-reacted by then pulling the plane up sharply.

The moves injured two flight attendants and 14 sleeping passengers on the Toronto-Zurich flight, none of whom had been wearing their seatbelts. Seven of them required hospital treatment in Zurich. The investigation found that the co-pilot had been suffering "sleep inertia" caused by fatigue. It noted that protocols requiring pilots to have 15 minutes to properly awaken from a nap before taking control had not been followed, reports the Globe and Mail. A pilots group says the near-disaster shows that Canada needs to follow the lead of other countries, and require transatlantic flights to have at least three pilots. (More Air Canada stories.)

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