Laser Takes Out Virgin Atlantic Pilot, Union Calls for Ban on Possessing Lasers

Last night’s Virgin Atlantic flight VS25 from London Heathrow to New York JFK departed and was enroute to 36,000 feet 170 miles north-northwest of Shannon, Ireland when the crew declared a medical issue with the pilot.

They had experienced a laser pointed at the aircraft, and the pilot was feeling unwell. The aircraft was an hour into its journey when they turned back and landed at Heathrow an hour and 15 minutes later.

Here’s the crew’s PAN PAN PAN call.

Since this was the 8:05pm departure from London, there were no more flights for the night and passengers were put up in hotels.

Police are investigating the source of the laser.

“Police were contacted at approximately 9.35pm on Sunday February 14 following reports of a laser shone in the direction of a commercial flight that had taken off from Heathrow Airport.

“Inquiries continue to establish where the offence took place. There have been no arrests.”

Shining a light at an aircraft in a manner to distract or harm the crew is already illegal.

The airline’s pilots union wants to go further, calling on the government “to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them.” They want to change the law from criminalizing doing harm with a laser to merely possessing the laser.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Interesting, we saw the military helicopters bathed in green laser lights when circling overhead during the riots in Egypt, I wonder how they kept from being blinded ?

  2. Egypt’s military controls most of the country’s industry. Probably a special pointer they produced that doesn’t affect aircraft 😉

  3. @mike murphy @pointster There specialty goggles. They were developed some time ago to defend against military-grade (meaning powerful, blinding) lasers. Modern civilian lasers are now approaching what was once military grade levels.

  4. I think someone who would point a laser at an aircraft is because they are a bone head in general or more likely they are a terrorist trying to cause a crash . I don’t know of any reason the general public needs such a powerful laser . I think the sale or possession of lasers exceeding a certain wattage should be strictly regulated before there is a tragic incident .

  5. If you have good content, you shouldn’t need to create BuzzFeed-like headlines. The pilot was not “taken out” by a laser. A green laser was shone at the plane and unfortunately the laser hit the pilot’s eye. The pilot and crew made the decision that it would not be safe to continue. ATC even asked about landing and the crew member on the speaker said the pilot could fulfill his duties.

    Also, the YouTube video has been removed.

  6. We should probably ban headlights in cars while we’re at it, because they’re blinding to oncoming drivers :rolleyes:

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