‘Alarm­ing rate’ of laser at­tacks on air­craft

Fears of in­creas­ing strength of beams af­ter Heathrow in­ci­dent

Staines Informer - - FRONT PAGE - Kather­ine Cle­men­tine

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.

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