‘Laser incident’ forces Virgin Atlantic jetliner back to London

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Laser pointers are a troubling trend that government officials say can disorient and temporarily blind pilots.

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(Feb. 15, 2016) — A “laser incident” forced a pilot to turn around a flight from London to New York, Virgin Atlantic Airlines said.

Virgin Atlantic Flight 025 was en route from Heathrow Airport on Sunday when a laser was pointed at the plane, spokeswoman Jaime Fraser said.

“Following this incident, the first officer reported feeling unwell. The decision was taken by both pilots to return to Heathrow rather than continue the transatlantic crossing,” the airline said on its website.

The aircraft landed safely at Heathrow with 252 passengers and 15 crew, Fraser said.

Virgin Atlantic said it’s offering affected passengers overnight accommodation and the flight is scheduled to depart London on Monday.

The airline is working with authorities to confirm the source of the laser, it said.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service said it is investigating, but there have been no arrests.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority recorded 48 laser incidents at Heathrow Airport in the first half of 2015.

Such incidents are on the rise — especially in the United States — as handheld lasers become more common and affordable. A laser beam has the potential to burn a pilot’s cornea and cause serious injury. Direct hits have put pilots in the hospital.

The beams can also temporarily disorient and blind pilots.

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