Plane returns to London after laser strike

Posted at 7:16 AM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-15 07:26:08-05

LONDON (AP) -- A Virgin Atlantic flight bound for New York has returned to London's Heathrow Airport after a laser was beamed into the cockpit.

The airline said in a statement Monday that flight VS025 decided to return to Heathrow rather than making the trans-Atlantic crossing. Passengers were offered overnight accommodation and the airline apologized for any inconvenience.

"We are working with the authorities to identify the source of the laser that caused the return of the aircraft to Heathrow," the company said in a statement.

Police said they were contacted Sunday evening and that no arrests have been made.

According to civil aviation authorities in Britain, there were 414 such incidents in the first half of 2015 and some 1,440 in 2014.

Lasers can cause a temporary loss of sight that persists even after the light is moved, the British Airline Pilots Association said. They also have the power to blind.

"This is not an isolated incident," said Jim McAuslan, the organization's general secretary. "Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with ever-increasing strength."

The organization wants British authorities to classify lasers as offensive weapons.

Aviation analyst Howard Wheeldon described the shining of lasers into cockpits as a "very serious issue."

"Those who are endangering the lives of passengers must be brought to justice," he said.