A passenger on board a Virgin Atlantic flight that turned back to Heathrow following a laser incident has described the ordeal as “scary”.
The New York-bound plane returned to London when a pilot reported feeling unwell, after a laser was directed at the aircraft as it took off on Sunday evening.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic said the safety of the crew and passengers on board flight VS025 from London Heathrow to New York JFK was a “top priority”. The co-pilot was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.
In a recording from the cockpit released online, a crew member can be heard telling air traffic control there is a “medical issue” with one of the pilots “after a laser incident on take-off”, and they are going to return to Heathrow.
Incident ‘potentially dangerous’
Bethany McHutchinson, who was on board the plane, told Sky News: “I think it’s really scary, whether it was by accident or on purpose.”
She said that if the incident had been really serious, it could have put everyone’s lives on the plane in danger, adding that “when you are up in the air and hear stuff like that it’s very scary”.
There were understood to be 252 passengers and 15 crew members on board the flight.
Laser power limits
Laser expert John Tyrer is a professor of optical instrumentation at Loughborough University and has designed laser safety equipment for the police.
He says the pilot could have felt stunned or shocked by the incident, and an attack in the eye will make the eye water and can cause a headache.
If lasers are bought from reputable UK companies there are power density limits placed on these devices so they cannot cause any damage to the eye, Mr Tyrer says.
But ones bought off the internet, which are often shipped from the Far East, can be much more powerful and potentially harmful.
Source: Sky News
Date Published: March 5, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown