A Virgin Atlantic flight departing from London to Tel Aviv on Tuesday was forced to turn back after a laser beam hit the cockpit and temporarily blinded the pilot.
The flight had been in the air for around 20 minutes before the incident, approaching Paris, before turning back to Heathrow airport. After the plane landed safely, the passengers were housed for free in local hotels before boarding a later flight.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said the flight “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.”
INCIDENT: Virgin Atlantic #VS453 London Heathrow to Tel Aviv (Boeing 787-9 G-VDIA) turned back SW of Paris & has just returned to LHR. Declared Pan Pan with ATC. Reason not yet known.https://t.co/yHyixUbBjH pic.twitter.com/lmKL0FGxRC
— Airport Webcams (@AirportWebcams) March 15, 2021
“We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and apologize for any inconvenience caused. All customers were offered overnight accommodation and we are working hard to ensure they are able to continue their journeys as soon as possible. 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).”
VS453 departed at 9:30 p.m. and returned to Heathrow at 10:45 p.m.
On March 15, #VirginAtlantic Boeing 787-9 (G-VDIA), flight #VS453 from #London to #TelAviv had to returned back at #Heathrow Airport after someone targeted the cockpit with laser beam upon departure. The crew declared Pan-Pan above Paris, made a u-turn and flew back to London. pic.twitter.com/QRv3Y4LYQM
— FlightMode (@FlightModeblog) March 16, 2021
The person who shone the beam into the cockpit was arrested, the Maariv daily reported. This was not immediately confirmed by police.