On Monday 15 March, a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 was forced to return to London Heathrow Airport, after a laser pointer attack injured the captain.
According to the AvHerald, the Boeing 787-9, with registration G-VDIA and performing flight VS-453 from London Heathrow (UK) to Tel Aviv (Israel), departed Heathrow’s runway 27L and was climbing out when a laser pointer was pointed at the aircraft and hit the captain.
“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).”a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told The Independent
At first, the crew decided to continue on with the flight; but while they were passing over Paris, France at FL410 they declared PAN PAN, reporting that the captain now could only see with one eye. They started their return to London and landed 75 minutes after departure.
All passengers were offered overnight accommodation and a replacement Boeing 787-9, registration G-VAHH, reached Tel Aviv as flight VS-453A the following day, with a delay of 12.5 hours. Israel newspaper, Maariv, reported that the perpetrator operating the laser was arrested.
“On 15th 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 are paramount and this was a precautionary step taken by the operating crew. We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and apologize for any inconvenience caused.”a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told The Independent
Even with the large reduction in the number of flights, due to the air crisis, cases of a laser pointers being aimed at planes has increased in 2020 in the USA. According to data, more than 6,852 laser attacks were reported to the FAA by pilots; this is a 11.7% increase over the 6,136 attacks reported in 2019.