There has been an alarming increase in laser incidents involving commercial aircraft in recent years. Usually these incidents are reported to authorities but don’t cause diversions or major operational issues. Well, The Aviation Herald reports on a particularly noteworthy laser incident that took place earlier this week.
Virgin Atlantic captain injured by laser
On Monday, March 15, 2021, Virgin Atlantic flight 453 was supposed to operate from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv. The Boeing 787-9 took off from runway 27L at Heathrow, and during climb out a laser was pointed at the aircraft, and it hit the captain.
The pilots reported the incident to ATC, which relayed the information to the police. The crew decided to continue the flight, since initially it appeared that the captain was okay.
However, while over Paris at 41,000 feet, the crew decided to return to London, as the captain reported that he could only see out of one eye, and became increasingly challenged. The pilots declared a “PAN,” and the flight ended up returning to Heathrow about 75 minutes after it took off.
Media reports suggest that the person who was behind the laser has been arrested.
Passengers were significantly delayed as a result of this incident, as the Virgin Atlantic flight to Tel Aviv only ended up operating the next day, about 12 hours later.
This has happened before on Virgin Atlantic
It’s interesting to note the similarities between this story and an incident that happened almost five years ago, also on a Virgin Atlantic flight. In 2016 a New York-bound Virgin Atlantic A340 declared an emergency over Ireland, after a pilot was injured by a laser shortly after takeoff. The plane also returned to London Heathrow.
What a jerk…
What is wrong with people? What would possess someone to point a laser at an aircraft during a critical phase of flight, putting the wellbeing of the pilots and passengers at risk? I don’t get the psychology — do they think it’s funny, are they actually trying to harm pilots and airplanes, or what?
A Virgin Atlantic 787 had to return to London Heathrow after a pilot lost vision in one eye due to a laser. The laser was pointed at the plane shortly after takeoff, and while the pilots initially made the decision to continue, the captain’s vision got worse as the flight continued.
Fortunately it sounds like authorities arrested the individual responsible for this, so hopefully that person spends some time behind bars.