Virgin Atlantic airline Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner pilot injured by laser attack and had to turn around after take-off from London, his vision failing to recover after being blinded by a laser.
A Virgin Atlantic flight VS453 operating from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv, Israel had to turn back when a laser struck the cockpit. Out of an abundance of caution, the crew turned back to Heathrow, landing safely at the airport an hour and a half later.
The British company’s 787-9 registered G-VDIA had just taken off on March 15, 2021, at 9:30 p.m. from its base in London-Heathrow bound for Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion airport when the aircraft’s cockpit was » illuminated ”by a laser.
The crew decided to continue their journey, but while flight VS-453 was over France at a latitude of 41,000 feet, the captain complained that he could only see one eye. . The crew decided to turn back and landed in London approximately 75 minutes after takeoff. The aircraft landed safely back at London Heathrow at 22:45.
The incident was immediately reported to the civil aviation authority and police, who Israeli media say arrested the perpetrator.
In a recording from the cockpit which was published online, a crew member is heard telling Irish air traffic that the incident took place six to seven miles west of Heathrow.
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The passengers were accommodated free of charge, and were able to take off again on Tuesday aboard replacement flight VS-453A, aboard another 7879 (G-VAHH); they arrived in Israel 12:30 hours late.
“We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and apologize for any inconvenience caused. All customers were offered overnight accommodation, and we are working hard to ensure they are able to continue their journeys as soon as possible. As is standard procedure for a laser incident, we swiftly notified the police and remain in close contact with them and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).”
Between January 2009 and June 2015 more than 8,998 laser incidents across the country were reported to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
In 2014, there were 1,440 incidents in the UK, with 168 at Heathrow, according to the CAA.
Manchester International airport had the second most in that period, with 107, followed by Birmingham airport with 92 and Leeds Bradford airport with 81.
In the US, CNN reported there were 20 incidents during one night alone in November last year.
A new law introduced in 2010 means someone can be charged with “shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot”.