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Laser aimed at cockpit blinds pilot, forces flight to Tel Aviv back to London

Virgin Atlantic says it’s coordinating with police and the Civil Aviation Authority after the incident; report says suspect arrested

File: A Virgin Atlantic Airways plane taxis Friday, April 13, 2018, at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
File: A Virgin Atlantic Airways plane taxis Friday, April 13, 2018, at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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.”

“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.

The person who shone the beam into the cockpit was arrested, the Maariv daily reported. This was not immediately confirmed by police.

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