An Air Canada first officer groggy from a recent nap mistook the planet Venus for an oncoming cargo jet last year, leading him to plunge his plane 120 metres down to avoid the approaching heavenly body.
Sixteen passengers on the cross-Atlantic flight were injured in the dip, which was at first blamed on turbulence.
From the Toronto Star:
The [Transport Safety Board of Canada] investigation revealed the sudden plummet occurred during the Toronto-to-Zurich flight after the first officer, who has young children at home, opted for a nap over a cup of coffee.
The first officer had just woken up when the flight captain informed him a U.S. cargo plane was flying toward them. The officer “initially mistook the planet Venus for an aircraft,” then thought an oncoming U.S. plane was descending from above, threatening an “imminent collision.”
The U.S plane had, in reality, been flying 300 metres below the Air Canada plane.