One of the pilots reported a “medical issue” after a laser was shone into the cockpit about six miles from Heathrow.
A Virgin Atlantic flight to New York has been forced to return to Heathrow Airport after a laser beam was pointed at the plane – prompting urgent action in the cockpit.
Audio of the plane’s exchange with air traffic control describes one of the pilots having a “medical issue” following the incident, which occurred “six or seven miles” west of Heathrow.
Virgin confirmed Flight VS025 to JFK – which had 252 passengers and 15 crew on board – had been abandoned as a “precautionary measure” after the plane’s First Officer reported “feeling unwell”.All the passengers on the flight – which took off just before 8pm – are safe, but they will have to wait until 1pm on Monday to continue their journey because of “limited availability”.
Passenger Bethany McHutchinson told Sky News: “I think it’s really scary, whether it was by accident or on purpose.
“If anything had happened, if it had been really serious, it could have put everyone’s lives on the plane in danger.”
A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic USA said: “The safety of our crew and customers is our top priority and we apologise for any inconvenience to those onboard.”
The airline said it is working with authorities to identify the source of the “laser beam incident”.
Metropolitan Police said they had been contacted at around 9.35pm but were still trying to establish where the offence took place.
Police have previously warned over high-powered lasers being aimed at aircraft, saying there could be “disastrous consequences” through disorientation or momentary loss of control.
A Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said: “Shining a laser at an aircraft in flight could pose a serious safety risk and it is a criminal offence to do so.”
A laser can result in temporary vision loss associated with flash blindness, according to the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), which wants ministers to classify lasers as offensive weapons