A passenger on board a New York-bound plane which was turned back to Heathrow after a laser incident saw a pilot taken to hospital has described the ordeal as “scary”.
The Virgin Atlantic flight returned to the west London airport when the co-pilot reported feeling unwell after a laser was directed at the plane as it took off on Sunday.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic confirmed the incident took place shortly after take-off and that the pilot was taken to hospital as a “precautionary measure”, but was unable to offer further details on his condition.
She said the safety of the crew and customers on board flight VS025 from London Heathrow to New York JFK was a “top priority”.
In a recording from the flight, a crew member can be heard telling air traffic control they have a “medical issue” with one of the pilots “after a laser incident on take-off”, and that they are going to return to Heathrow.
Passenger Bethany McHutchinson told Sky News: “I think it’s really scary, whether it was by accident or on purpose.
“If anything had happened, if it had been really serious, it could have put everyone’s lives on the plane in danger.
“It is very scary, especially when you are up in the air and hear stuff like that.”
It is understood that there were 252 passengers and 15 crew on board the flight.
Laser expert John Tyrer, of Loughborough University, said the pilot could have felt stunned or shocked by the incident, adding: “If you get an attack in your eye it will make your eye water and you may get a headache.”
In 2010 a law was passed in the UK which allows offenders to be charged with “shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot”. If the distraction or dazzle is serious, a person may be found guilty of “reckless endangerment” and sent to prison.
Between 2009 and June 2015 more than 8,998 laser incidents across the country were reported to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.