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UK: Virgin Atlantic flight turns back after laser strike
"On 15 March 2021 flight VS453, operating from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, returned to Heathrow after take-off due to a laser beam incident upon departure.
The safety and security of our people and our customers is paramount and this was a precautionary step taken by the operating crew.
We'd like to thank our customers for their patience and apologise 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)."
The Boeing Dreamliner B789 aircraft took off from Heathrow at 9:34 pm GMT. At about 10:00 pm, while flying at an altitude of 41,000 ft, it began a U-turn southwest of Paris. The flight landed back at Heathrow at 10:47 pm.
Approximately 10:00 pm the aircraft begins its U-turn
A few minutes later, it is on its way back to Heathrow…
… landing at 10:47 pm.
According to the Aviation Herald, the pilot was climbing out of Heathrow when the captain was illuminated by a laser beam. His or her condition worsened, with vision in only one eye, so the crew decided to turn back. They declared a "pan-pan", which is an urgent situation not posing an immediate danger. (This call is one level down from a "mayday", meaning imminent danger to life or the aircraft.)
The Aviation Herald also cited an Israeli media report that the laser perpetrator had been arrested.
From the Aviation Herald and the Daily Mail. Graphics from FlightAware.com
COMMENTARY BY LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM
This is the second time we are aware of that a commercial flight has turned back after having laser light from the ground interfere with the crew. On February 14 2016, a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to New York was illuminated by green laser light 6 miles west of London while flying at 8,000 feet. That flight continued for a while but then turned back over Ireland due to the first officer having vision problems. A story with links is here.
We have also reported on a few other times that aircraft have changed course, or the many times that police or other public service flights have had a mission interrupted, because of laser interference.