Did a pilot really drop a plane into a nosedive to avoid Venus?

By Phil Plait | April 18, 2012 10:30 am

I fly a lot, and sometimes get the sneaky suspicion that the airline isn’t always telling me everything I need to know about why the plane is delayed (assuming they don’t want to say "A doohickey fell off mid-flight"), why there’s turbulence ("We’re flying through an active hurricane"), or why they’re out of food ("The rabid badgers that broke loose in first class ate all the honey-roasted peanuts").

But what was allegedly first claimed to be "severe turbulence" on an Air Canada flight in January 2011 turned out to be something a wee bit more scary: the First Officer (FO) woke up from a nap, and thought he saw an approaching Air Force jet, so he plunged the plane into a dive. The Captain then took over and pulled the plane up, resulting in a violent ride for the passengers.

The thing here is that a lot of folks are reporting that the FO mistook Venus for the oncoming airplane, which is why he took the plane into the nosedive. For example, Reuters, CNN, and the NY Post all imply or outright say that.

However, I don’t think that’s the case, or it certainly isn’t that clear. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada issued a report, and while it mentions Venus, it doesn’t look like that was the immediate cause of the incident:

The FO initially mistook the planet Venus for an aircraft but the captain advised again that the target was at the 12 o’clock position and 1000 feet below. The captain of ACA878 and the oncoming aircraft crew flashed their landing lights. The FO continued to scan visually for the aircraft. 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.

[Emphasis mine.]

Note how it says the First Officer initially saw Venus, but then continued to look around until he saw the oncoming plane. At that point, for whatever reason, he misinterpreted the position of the plane and took his own aircraft into a dive.


We do know that the FO had been napping just before this incident — which is allowed — but his nap lasted 75 minutes, far more than the 40 minutes allowed by the rules. Also, he had said he was "not feeling altogether well". I’ve taken naps that are too long, and it can be disorienting, even after being awake a few minutes. It’s entirely possible he got the position of Venus mixed up with the the lights from the oncoming plane, but it’s not as cut and dried as some reports are putting it.

Mind you, Venus gets extremely bright. If you got outside after sunset in the next few weeks you’ll see it, shining like a laser in the western sky. It’s so bright it gets mistaken for a UFO all the time (Jupiter does too; see Related Posts below). Even pilots have thought that many times in the past.

Don’t lose sight of the real story here. The problem is that protocols to avoid the panic dive were not being followed, which is why the flight got so rough several passengers had to be hospitalized. The dive and subsequent pitch readjustment took 46 seconds to play out according to the TSB report. One passenger said she thought "… the plane had hit a mountain or another aircraft."

Yikes.

The other thing not mentioned in the story is why Air Canada supposedly claimed it was just turbulence, and whether they got reprimanded for making this statement. I can understand it if it were said on the flight itself — honestly, the passengers (including me if I had been there) would’ve rioted if they had said the FO woke up from a nap and possibly tried to avoid hitting a planet a hundred million kilometers away. But if that were an official statement after the fact, harumph. Air Canada has responded to the TSB report, but that part isn’t mentioned.

So, to be clear: Venus played a role here, but it’s not clear if it was the immediate and direct cause of the FO pitching the plane down. It sounds more to me like it added to the confusion at least. I’ll note that while people who aren’t familiar with the sky report Venus as a UFO all the time, that doesn’t necessarily play into this story either. The FO might be quite familiar with Venus, but in his groggy and "not altogether well" state he simply didn’t recognize it. From the TSB report, we don’t really know.

Tip o’ the port wing to John McPhee.


Related Posts:

- Erie UFO sounds familiar to me
- It’s a UFO, by Jove
- Why astronomers don’t report UFOs

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Humor, Piece of mind, Skepticism
MORE ABOUT: Air Canada, UFO, Venus

Comments (66)

Links to this Post

  1. Anonymous | April 18, 2012
  2. Did a pilot really drop a plane into a nosedive to avoid Venus? | April 18, 2012
  1. Sarah

    Not the first time a planet has been mistaken for a terrestrial… UFO

    Be happy the FO reacted quickly to a percieved collision hazard, rather than peeved about the resulting unfortunate minor injuries. True, it should not have happened, but the consequences of a midair collision are somewhat worse than what did happen.

    Always wear the seatbelt! Why?
    http://avherald.com/h?article=44e26528&opt=0

  2. Mike

    “added to the confusion at least”

    As a private pilot flying under visual flight rules, I usually don’t have air traffic control pointing out traffic and I don’t have any fancy electronics (TCAS) to alert me. Nothing gets my heart pumping faster (other than the engine coughing) than seeing something out in front of me that doesn’t move right, left, up, or down. If it’s moving, it’s not approaching me head-on. Two aircraft approaching each other head-on are closing the distance extremely fast (in this case 900 kts) and you have to act immediately. As the report mentions, this is at night without other visual clues.

    Even if I knew it was Venus, I’m always second-guessing myself and everything I “know”. Was that Venus I saw earlier, but then got distracted with other tasks (or took a nap) and now Venus has set and this is the landing lights of a plane approaching me head-on, or can I discount it and keep looking?

    I’m willing to take the Canada Safety Board Report at face value and assume the FO wasn’t trying to avoid Venus. I’m not saying the FO was blameless or the incident couldn’t have been avoided, but I sure can sympathize.

  3. Frank

    Venus or no, this guy’s an idiot.

  4. ccpetersen

    Phil,

    Excellent points. I read that report yesterday and wondered why the headlines were all mentioning Venus, rather than good ol’ pilot error (or confusion).

    I’ve been in flight and seen Venus and it can look an awful lot like a nearby aircraft. But, the media has really missed the real story here.

    ccpetersen

  5. Well, Venus is clearly a navigation hazard. We must do something. Call Neil Degrasse Tyson or -better- nuke it from orbit, it´s the only way to be sure.

  6. Belgarath

    Hi Phil,

    Agreed. The pilot did not respond to Venus, but it is an interesting thought. I do know of pilots who have made abrupt maneuvers to avoid hitting ‘Venus’ and other celestial bodies because under certain conditions, they can look extraordinarily like aircraft lights.

    I myself have been followed by UFO’s. I spent 45 seconds racking my brain trying to figure out what the heck was following me, Finally it clicked and much like one of those optical illusion pictures where the old hag turns into a young woman, it turned out the UFO following me was a reflection of the full moon on calm water.

    The press often messes up aviation reporting. Thank you for setting the record straight.

  7. James

    Everyone is complaining about the pilot, but he really did avert a tragedy. Could you imagine the horror if the plane would have crashed into Venus? He’s a hero in my books.

    Perhaps it wasn’t Venus after all, perhaps it was Cats in Space!!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DnQLI1XDzI

  8. Frank

    This is what happens when stupid people get put in charge of important things. I’m glad I don’t fly much anymore. Never know when the pilot is going to be a ninnyhammer like our anonymous FO.

  9. Chip

    There have been stories for years of cases where Venus drew antiaircraft fire during World War II. Its conceivable, in a war situation where gunners are jumpy and expecting an attack. If you place “Venus drew antiaircraft fire” into Google there are references though I have not found a specific example of time and place.

    Japanese fighter pilot Saburō Sakai, interviewed in Martin Caidin’s book “Samurai!” mentions Imperial Navy pilots were expected to spot Venus in the daytime if it was in the sky, as part of their training.

  10. Jonathan Schmeelk

    As I private pilot I wanted to just throw in my two cents regarding scanning for other aircraft and collision avoidance.

    It is HIGHLY unlikely that the FO actually thought Venus was the other aircraft. To begin with, simply looking at Venus for a fraction of a second would reveal several things – it doesn’t appear to possess motion independent of the observer’s own shifting position (which, it needs to be said, *could* signal an imminent collision, as an aircraft on a collision course with the observer doesn’t appear to move relative to said observer), it is a constant light, which is highly unlike aircraft navigation lights, and it is not accompanied by the red and green wingtip lights on all aircraft (fun fact – every airplane has a red light on its left wingtip, and a green light on its right – that way the observer can tell its orientation in relation to themselves).

    I’d say it’s far more likely that Venus was a distracting light in the sky that continually drew the FO’s eyes in that direction, probably contributing to a non-trivial amount of panic on the part of the FO. I can only provide my own anecdotes, but I certainly get a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat when I know there’s another aircraft out there, close by even, and I can’t see it. More than once have I frantically searched the sky for “the other guy”, only to see the other airplane at a less than comfortable distance. Airplanes may seem big on the ground, but the sky is MUCH bigger, and the speed that even the slowest airplanes travel at doesn’t give all that much time for reaction. Once he saw the lights, the FO might very well have made the snap judgement that it would be better to react and be wrong than end up pancaked in the sky.

    So, to clarify – the FO probably saw Venus first, then the captain corrected him, then the FO continued to (maybe somewhat frantically) search the sky until he saw the other aircraft, whereby he initiated a steep descent to avoid the perceived threat of collision. I bet being groggy and a little out of it might have contributed to the incident. It’s interesting to note that the altitudes were very close together (35,000 ft for the Air Canada, 34,000 ft for the other aircraft). On-coming traffic, only a thousand feet below you and traveling towards you at high speed can be nerve wracking, especially if the collision avoidance system is bugging you about it (which it was).

    Just my two cents!

  11. I have not seen a single Canadian news source mention Venus at all, though the FO’s confusion upon waking, and his misinterpretation of the flight path of the other plane, and the fact that injured passengers were not wearing seat beats has been thoroughly reported (i.e. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/groggy-air-canada-pilot-unbuckled-seatbelts-caused-injuries-in-jet-dive-report/article2403820/ ). This suggests to me that perhaps there’s been some sloppy reporting internationally, and the error in reporting is propagating through the news services you mention. The focus of the reporting in Canada has been what are the protocols for allowing pilots to nap (and whether these should be revised), and the false claim of turbulence.

  12. John Baxter

    My uncle, late 1940s, aboard a small commercial passenger plane late for takeoff from southern Italy to North Africa, and observing a technician enter the cockpit, to the stewardess: “Miss, what is the problem?”

    Stewardess: “Well, sir, today we have the best pilot on the airline, and he refuses to take off until the radio works.”

  13. Chris

    Now granted I’m not a pilot, but a few years ago on NOVA or another program describing a midair collision said they have proximity alarms on aircraft now. Also the proximity alarm tells one pilot to go up and another to go down. This avoids a tragedy of both diving down and hitting each other anyway. I would think he would check this before making a rash decision. Perhaps some pilots can comment on this system.

  14. The system Chris mentions is called TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) and is fitted to any modern airliner, and has been for a long time. It will give an aural alert when traffic is within a certain radius of an aircraft. If it appears that the two aircraft are on courses that will take them within a closer distance and possibly result in a collisions it will indeed issue a command to either climb or descend – with the systems in each aircraft communicating as to who does what. It’s surprising that the pilot reacted like he did without a TCAS warning.

    I’d imagine the pilot was familiar with Venus, it doesn’t take much flying at night before you’ve noticed it a few times. However in a dark sky with few visual references it can be easy to get confused or disorientated. I’m not sure where the event took place but if it was over the sea or an area of land without a large population centre and therefore lights, it’s very easy to get confused by the all round blackness.

  15. ceramicfundamentalist

    “Japanese fighter pilot Saburō Sakai, interviewed in Martin Caidin’s book “Samurai!” mentions Imperial Navy pilots were expected to spot Venus in the daytime if it was in the sky, as part of their training.”

    yes, but it was easier in those days. less light pollution.

  16. Jake Orosi

    It’s important to note that when a pilot wakes up from his legal 40-minute nap, he’s not supposed to perform any cockpit duties for the next 15 minutes, for precisely this reason – people in a just-awakened state are of compromised judgment and ability.

  17. Tara Li

    @10 – please tell me you didn’t say that… less light pollution in the *DAY*? Haze/air pollution, *perhaps* – though not that big an issue with regards to Venus when it’s pretty bright – but *less* light pollution? The Sun is soooo much the primary source of light pollution in the daytime, anything else is … *BLEGH*

  18. OtherRob

    Oh, great. We’re crashing planes into Venus. We’re shooting at them. They’re gonna get mad and start crashing their planes into us.

  19. Wzrd1

    Chris, one of the linked articles mentions that the FO was disoriented after going into deep sleep and that his normal sleep at home was frequently interrupted by his young children.
    Being disoriented upon awakening, then having to deal with a complex situation is daunting, to put it mildly and I’m speaking from direct, personal experience during my time with the military.

    @2 &6, Frank, it gives all of the traveling public and the transportation sector no end of joy to know that you travel infrequently. I’ll only say that it’s been my experience that he or she who declares another an idiot in their first sentence typically is what they are describing.

  20. Rick Johnson

    In the 50′s my dad was on a DC-6 coming from Washington D.C. when he saw a brilliant bolide out the window. Pilots took it for a metallic, cigar shaped UFO with brilliantly lit windows that was on a collision course. The violent maneuvers they used caused many passengers to be injured, one or two hospitalized. My dad, a pilot, had his belt on but got severe bruises from it when hanging sideways due to their “uncontrolled (his opinion) maneuvers. My dad and a couple passengers tried to tell reporters it was a bolide meteor but the plane was from D.C. and there was a big UFO flap there recently with UFO’s over the Capital and White House. No one listened to my dad or the other two passengers. This was “proof” UFO’s were real, end of story. Credulous books featured this story at the time since pilots couldn’t be fooled etc. In fact most reports had them as heroes. I don’t know about the FAA or airline that wasn’t reported that I recall. Most passengers were calling them heroes as well as news media. Even those with needlessly broken bones.

  21. Wzrd1

    @14, Rick Johnson, UFO’s *ARE* real. They’re simply unidentified and frequently misidentified. :)
    Other than bolides coming to a firy demise, there are flocks of birds, mirages, other aircraft, mirages of aircraft far away and even classified aircraft (which “don’t exist”).
    Of course, the only extraterrestrial UFO is the meteor. Now, THAT object is one that I’d not want to fly near, just for its shockwave. As I don’t travel by SR-71, that has never been and never will be an issue. ;)

  22. Ron1

    We have a procedure in the Air Traffic facility in which I work whereby an individual returning from a nap (we are allowed to this in Canada) does not touch any operational position for least fifteen minutes after waking up. The reason we do this is because the newly awakened person is DANGEROUS!

    Further, a nap greater than forty and less than ninety minutes puts a person into REM sleep which is very difficult to wake up from, leaving the individual very groggy. Both factors happened in this incident, ie the sleeping pilot woke up from what can be assumed as REM sleep and immediately became operational, and (possibly) screwed up — been there, done that.

    Given the pilot’s sleep situation, it’s not surprising that his ability to process information was compromised and a situation evolved.

    Regardless, where staffing and adequate procedures are in place, letting operational people nap is a GOOD idea.

    Cheers

  23. Regnad Kcin

    So this plane was flying east, most likely. Was Venus actually in the morning and not evening sky then?

  24. Chris

    This is why I never take my seat belt off. It does not need to be so tight it’s cutting off the circulation. Just leave it loose but attached in case the plane or pilots want to have some fun.

  25. Brian

    T-minus 3 days until the TSA announces new rules banning planets from your carry-on luggage.

  26. Jim Orr

    Harkens back to a report from Oct ’11 where rescue boats were dispatched off the west coast of England, in response to what was thought to be a signal flare, but was in fact a newly-risen Jupiter, hanging low and brightly just above the horizon. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-15165928

  27. drjuris

    Chris, while the First Officer was still asleep the captain had in fact seen a collision avoidance system target show up on the navigation display. It was not warning of a collision course, but was showing the aircraft approaching from the opposite direction. He was alerted too that it was a U.S. C-17 and that it was 1000 feet below them. He also visually found and confirmed identification of the aircraft roughly a minute before the First Officer even woke up.

    Phil: “So, to be clear: Venus played a role here, but it’s not clear if it was the immediate and direct cause of the FO pitching the plane down.”

    Actually it is pretty clear that Venus played no part in the First Officer’s actions. Venus only attracted his attention for a moment while he was looking for the actual plane, which he then found. When he had awoken the captain advised him there was a c-17 at 12 o’clock (directly ahead) and below them approximately 1000 feet. When the First Officer scanned his field of vision he saw Venus and initially thought it was his target, but the captain reminded him he was looking in the wrong direction and that the c-17 was at 12 o’clock and 1000 feet below them. The First Officer did then see the c-17 straight ahead. His misjudgment of the movement of the c-17′s light caused him to believe a collision was imminent and he pressed forward on the yolk. Venus had nothing to do with it. However it makes for a great story. I am sure the genius Steve Doocy will do a story on Fox about how Venus almost took down an airliner.

    The First Officer was not out of the effects of his sleep and made a pretty simple mistake about how an oncoming plane’s light should move if it is above or below you. He recognized within seconds he was wrong because the light was moving down, as should the light from a plane which is below yours. By then the Captain had already taken corrective action.

  28. Frank

    @20, I stand by my statements. This guy made a stupid mistake and people got hurt because of it. He is therefore deserving of the title of “idiot.”

  29. Well, in fairness since we all know that “Venus” is in fact the great ship Vingilot which travels the night with Eärendil wearing a Silmaril upon his brow, it seems like a reasonable mistake to make…

  30. CB

    drjuris:

    Um no that isn’t clear at all. I don’t think you can say that in the FO’s groggy mind which did at least briefly confuse Venus for a plane, that this confusion had nothing to do with misinterpreting the direction the oncoming aircraft was coming from. If the reasoning of someone in that state followed logic, and if he had understood what the Captain had said, then he never would have made the evasive maneuver to avoid the collision that wasn’t going to happen.

    The important thing here is not exactly how he was confused, though. It’s that he’d just woken from a deep sleep and was, as one would expect, groggy and not in a state fit for grabbing the yolk of an aircraft. Pilots aren’t supposed to sleep that long for exactly that reason, but I’m not convinced it’s just his kids keeping him awake and not policies that don’t distinguish between day and night flying when proscribing how many hours a pilot can work.

  31. ctj

    of course venus is a navigational hazard. just ask velikovsky.

  32. Joe Shuster

    ” One passenger said she thought ‘… the plane had hit a mountain or another aircraft.’ ”

    Travel trivia: If your brain can still form a thought about your enormous jet plane hitting a mountain, you can be 100% sure your plane has not hit a mountain.

  33. Chris

    Have you seen Venusian women? They are so hot. :-D

  34. Karen

    Clearly Venus is blocking our view of … well, the Earth, actually. This calls for an Illudium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator.

  35. drjuris

    CB: “Um no that isn’t clear at all. I don’t think you can say that in the FO’s groggy mind which did at least briefly confuse Venus for a plane, that this confusion had nothing to do with misinterpreting the direction the oncoming aircraft was coming from. If the reasoning of someone in that state followed logic, and if he had understood what the Captain had said, then he never would have made the evasive maneuver to avoid the collision that wasn’t going to happen.”

    Sorry but I have to disagree with you. Venus is not what made him misjudge the light of the U.S. C-17′s heading. He was not looking at Venus. He was looking at what he knew to be a U.S. c-17.

    Originally, when he awoke and the captain told him there was a c-17 coming their direction he looked in the wrong direction and saw Venus. But, the captain immediately corrected him to look dead ahead, 12 o’clock and then he saw the c-17. From this point on Venus had nothing to do with the situation.

    The First Officer misjudged the movement of the c-17, which he knew to be the c-17 the captain had told him about. He mistakenly believed it was above them and descending, when actually it was below them. So he took evasive maneuvers, not because of Venus but because of misjudging the c-17 directly in front of him.

    This is clear from the report.

  36. Calli Arcale

    There’s something else that puzzles me about this story. A Yahoo! commenter pointed it out, and it gave me pause — this flight was heading towards Europe from Canada in the middle of the night. So how could he have seen Venus in *front* of the aircraft? It should have been in the western sky, if it hadn’t set altogether by that time. Perhaps it was really Saturn that he saw? Saturn is near opposition right now, and unusually bright in the sky.

  37. @JoeAnderson

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    Humans, even experienced, well trained ones (the First Officer has been flying for 24 years) make mistakes. This is a serious, but rare error. I have mistaken a higher aircraft for a lower one (and vice versa) when I was well rested. The Canadian TSB will learn from this. Air Canada will learn from this. All aviation professionals will learn from this.

    That being said, the real lesson here is this:

    Please, PLEASE wear your seat-belt when seated AT LEAST loosely around your waist, even if the seatbelt sign is off!

    Flying is NOT like riding in a car or train (or TARDIS). Though incredibly safe, air travel exposes humans to risks that we just aren’t experientially or evolutionarily prepared for. Humans are not prepared for sudden, unanticipated vertical motion (ever been sea sick?).

    Injuries from turbulence are rare and deaths even more so. In most of those instances the seat-belt sign was on and the passengers were either injured because they weren’t buckled up or they had an unrestrained fellow passenger land on them.

    In this particular case, at least some of the passengers injured were not buckled. This, in spite of the fact that the seat-belt sign was on and they had been told to buckle up.

    Frank, you’re right about one thing: The FO made a mistake, an important one. That alone does not make him an idiot, however. Some might reserve that title for people who are quick to judge others without knowing all of the facts.

  38. Ron1

    @38 Joe.Anderson said, “Some might reserve that title for people who are quick to judge others without knowing all the facts.”

    Exactly.

    Aviation is one of the finest models for finding and rectifying faults because we value the facts and, unless there is criminal negligence involved, no-fault processes give us the freedom to state those facts and therebye improve the industry.

    In the end, the FO made a mistake and we, in the industry will learn from it and we’ll adapt to be safer. This is simply how aviation works.

  39. Jack

    I’ve known people who nosedive all the time to avoid Uranus.

  40. CB

    But, the captain immediately corrected him to look dead ahead, 12 o’clock and then he saw the c-17. From this point on Venus had nothing to do with the situation. The First Officer misjudged the movement of the c-17, which he knew to be the c-17 the captain had told him about.He mistakenly believed it was above them and descending, when actually it was below them.

    Yeah so despite being so groggy that he couldn’t tell the location of the C17 relative to their plane despite the Captain explicitly telling him it was below them, and being so groggy he didn’t realize the Captain was in control of the plane, and that he as the guy who just woke up shouldn’t be doing anything, he was able to instantly remove all thoughts of Venus from his mind the moment the Captain told him. “Selective well-delineated excellence” is not how I think anyone’s thought process would be characterized after being woken up from a deep sleep.

    It’s quite possible Venus ultimately had nothing to do with it, but it’s also possible his sense of the plane’s location was confused by having previously misidentified Venus as the plane. I do not think it is clear that which is the case at all no matter that a report pretends to be able to perfectly reconstruct the thought process of the groggy mind.

  41. Brian Too

    @36. Karen,

    FTW!

  42. Argus

    Am I the only one reminded of the line “It’s coming right at us!”

  43. Wzrd1

    @drjuris and many, many others:
    What is missed is, per the transportation investigation report, this event was caused by the flight crew making a few errors.
    1: Not notifying the flight attendant in charge that the FO was going to sleep.
    2: Not adhering to the SOP of a 40 minute sleep, thereby preventing slow wave sleep and the attendant sleep intertia.
    3: Not keeping the FO from briefing or operations for 15 minutes minimum after awakening.
    Had those SOP rules been followed and completely understood (it was determined that the pilots were unaware of the REASON those rules were in place and hence, their importance), this entire episode would never have occurred.

    @Frank, anyone who calls a person who is half asleep an idiot for making an error is an idiot of the 33rd degree. And non-compliance with airline SOP’s STILL does not make one an idiot. That you first take that stance without reading the report in full AND stick with your assessment simply illustrates your lack of mental competence.

  44. aimlesst

    I was working a high altitude sector at an air traffic control center on a Saturday night. A pilot from a major carrier called to ask if I had any traffic for him. I replied, “Negative.” About a minute later he called again, “Center, is there any other traffic out at our 12 o’clock.” I ran my altitude ranges out further and was looking at 150 miles in front of him, Saturday nights at that time are very light traffic periods. After I told him again I had no traffic in his vicinity, I didn’t hear from him for a couple of minutes. Then he came back on the frequency and told me that they had just broken out of the clouds. Apparently there were some small breaks in the clouds they were flying through and they were catching a bright flash through those breaks from the rising moon! No evasive action was taken, but the pilot sounded seriously concerned about something being out there with him.

  45. Josh

    So the only two things that seem to be worth mentionig is that the FO initially took the wrong decision (going towards the other plane i.s.o. away from it) and that the airline kept saying it was turbulence.

    In the end we should at least be glad nothing really bad happened…

  46. Nigel Depledge

    Jonathan Schmeelk (10) said:
    fact – every airplane has a red light on its left wingtip, and a green light on its right – that way the observer can tell its orientation in relation to themselves

    This was acquired from shipping, where, for more than a century, vessels under way at night have been required to display a red light to their port side and a green light to their starboard.

  47. Nigel Depledge

    Ceramicfundamentalist (16) said:

    yes, but it was easier in those days. less light pollution.

    Where is the light pollution so bad that not even Venus can shine through it?

    Also, what is the relevance of light pollution to observing Venus in the daytime?

  48. Nigel Depledge

    Wzrd1 (22) said:

    Of course, the only extraterrestrial UFO is the meteor. Now, THAT object is one that I’d not want to fly near, just for its shockwave. As I don’t travel by SR-71, that has never been and never will be an issue.

    SR71s are not known for their passenger capacity.

    Did you ever fly on Concorde?

  49. Nigel Depledge

    Drjuris (28) said:

    His misjudgment of the movement of the c-17′s light caused him to believe a collision was imminent and he pressed forward on the yolk.

    Teehee.

    Did he have to wash the yolk off his hands before he took hold of the yoke to control the aircraft?

  50. Nigel Depledge

    CB (31) said:

    It’s that he’d just woken from a deep sleep and was, as one would expect, groggy and not in a state fit for grabbing the yolk of an aircraft.

    Wait, what?

    Aircraft lay eggs now?

  51. Satan Claws

    I think I remember reading someone commenting on this news on Yahoo as this event being an example of a “VENUS FLY TRAP”…

  52. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Also, speaking of yolks, a hen has just laid a healthy eggless chick……………Religious groups will soon proclaim it to be God’s only pet chicken…….

  53. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Damn! That moon seems to be coming right at me………..When I was a child I was playing outside after watching a ufo movie……..Then I noticed the moon following me and ducked….Dive the plane! Dive the plane!

  54. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Just put a large sign on it that says: VENUS

  55. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Actually I stopped my car once to observe a light in the sky that rapidly approached me then rapidly receded………I watched it for a couple of minutes until I figured out the Venus illusion was created by intervening clouds that were almost invisible in the night sky….as the light became obscured it appeared to grow smaller quickly and as the clouds passed by it appeared to advance quickly……Hence the illusion was a ufo moving at unbelievable speeds in my direction then away…….(It appeared to be using some kind of cloud propulsion drive)

  56. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Another solution would be to place a camera on the back of venus and cover it with leds on the front which would show a picture of space on the other side of it……then Venus would become effectively invisible…….

  57. ceramicfundamentalist

    @ tara (18) and nigel (49). you’ll have to forgive me, i was trying to make a bad joke. maybe i was confused because i just woke up.

  58. Mark

    And now, for a really confusing discussion between people confused about what a confused person was thinking in the very confused state that exists after first waking from a sound sleep… possibly involving a very confusing dream…

    You people do realize you are arguing about what another person may or may not have THOUGHT without having spoken to the person or witnessing the event, don’t you?

  59. kwoolf

    @Frank

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Wrzd1 comments on your mental capacity

  60. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    The Jet Blue pilot claims insanity……that makes me feel safer…..I thought he was just upset

  61. alanborky

    Phil there was a big kick off in the UK a while back over a story in which a ‘bobby’ supposedly checked out a report of a mysterious light only to claim it was actually the moon.

    I asked my father in law who was a police sergeant about such stories and he told me the ‘moon’ story was actually some “lazy b*st*rd” of a copper who couldn’t be bothered to go out of his way to do his job pandering to types who like to wolf up stories proving the public’re idiots.

    If the officer concerned’d been under him he said he’d've given his *rse such a kicking!

  62. Calli Arcale

    I’m still wondering if anybody has a comment on the peculiarity that a eastbound plane should not have been able to see Venus in front of it, as Venus is presently an evening “star” and thus only visible in the west.

  63. beer case

    UFO nearly hit plane!!

    hehe

  64. drjuris

    @Calli Arcale, the incident was in January 2011 when Venus was in the Eastern sky at night, preceding the sun.

    @Nigel Depledge: “Did he have to wash the yolk off his hands before he took hold of the yoke to control the aircraft?”

    ‘Yoke!’ woops. LOL

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