‘Alarming rate’ of laser attacks on aircraft
Fears of increasing strength of beams after Heathrow incident
AN aeroplane departing Heathrow Airport at the weekend had to return after a laser was shone at the cockpit, causing a medical issue with a pilot.
The Virgin Atlantic flight doubled back as a ‘precautionary measure’ due to the co-pilot feeling unwell, the airline said.
Police are trying to find the source of the beam, but it is believed to have been shone from around six miles west of the airport.
The British Airline Pilots Association has now called for lasers to be classed as offensive weapons, following several recent incidents.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “Police were contacted at approximately 9.35pm on Sunday, February 14 following reports of a laser shone in the direction of a commercial flight that had taken off from Heathrow Airport.
“Inquiries continue to establish where the offence took place. There have been no arrests.”
An audio recording from the cockpit revealed the aircraft’s plans to double-back were due to a ‘medical issue’ with the pilot.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesman confirmed the VS025 flight returned to London ‘as a precautionary measure due to a laser beam incident’.
The flight was heading for New York’s JFK airport.
The spokesman said: “The safety of our crew and customers is our top priority and we apologise for any inconvenience to those on board.
“All customers will be offered overnight accommodation and we will get them on their journey as soon as possible. We are working with the authorities to identify the source of the laser that caused the return of the aircraft to Heathrow.”
A message on the airline’s flight status website added: “Following this incident the First Officer reported feeling unwell.
“The decision was taken by both pilots to return to Heathrow rather than continue the transatlantic crossing.”
Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), said: “This is not an isolated incident.
“Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers of ever-increasing strength.”
For more on this story, see the Runnymede & Spelthorne edition of this week’s Surrey Advertiser, out tomorrow.
The laser beam aimed at the aircraft at the weekend made the pilot unwell and put the lives of everybody on board at risk.