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.