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Virgin Atlantic flight from London to NY returns after pilot hurt in laser incident

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Virgin Atlantic flight from London to NY returns after pilot hurt in laser incident

Old 15th Feb 2016, 13:25
  #61 (permalink)  
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If that was intended to be an apology, then it was certainly required.

Whether a consequence of naivety or arrogance or both, it is astonishing that a "lapsed PPL", who has previously conceded (when challenged in the Rotorheads forum) that he is "a fixed wing pilot of very limited experience", should not only have challenged an airline Captain's decision to turn back but go on to describe it very offensively as "an hysterical overreaction" and "gross incompetence on behalf of the flight crew."

Your attitude, posted previously, is that such incidents have been:
"sensationalised by the press and exaggerated by the victims in many instances."
A change in that attitude is long overdue.
Why bother to read PPRuNe if you aren't prepared to learn?

The written word is "libel", it is the spoken word that is "slander".
In general terms that is correct. Most commonly, libel tends to be written, broadcast or published online.
I hope that, in addition to the error you spotted, Bull Trust me I'm a lawyer Gate from Australia was referring to English law.
Australia abolished the distinction between slander and libel more than 10 years ago.


Last edited by Flying Lawyer; 15th Feb 2016 at 13:41.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 13:32
  #62 (permalink)  
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Having had a normal laser shone into my eyes for a fraction of a second I can say it was a horrible experience and the effect lasted hours.

Though in UK the power is supposed to be limited to 1mW, it does not take long to find very high power lasers with burning capability online.

I think the decision to turn back was wise.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 13:38
  #63 (permalink)  
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Banned in Australia 8 years ago

After similar problems in Australia lasers with power >1mW were basically banned.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 13:46
  #64 (permalink)  
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I wasn't there on board the aircraft, so whatever decisions the flight crew made were right for them, at the time. The aircraft landed safely and the passengers were uninjured.
That doesn't sound much like an apology to the Captain of that flight. Do you now withdraw your offensive comments about this very experienced senior officer?

This is an hysterical overreaction considering that the aircraft was already out past the west coast of Eire before turning back. I'm sure the pilot that was blinded by the l@ser may have felt some discomfort and eye irritation, but dumping thousands of pounds worth of fuel into the environment and inconveniencing hundreds of passengers strikes me as gross incompetence on behalf of the flight crew.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 13:55
  #65 (permalink)  
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I'm no airline pilot but have the greatest respect for those of you who are and have to make these decisions quickly. Going on from what Wiggy says, I remember an AAIB report from a few years ago involving a flight en route from the States to the UK. Shortly after takeoff the first officer felt unwell with a headache and talk a tablet out of his pocket (thinking it was parcetomol) only find out soon after that it was Co-proximol type drug which made him ill. The captain decided to press on and then almost landed on the worng runway at EGKK due to a late runway change and the presure of work on him that it caused. For those interested it was June 1997
AAIB Bulletin No: 6/97 Ref: EW/G96/12/1 Category: 1.1
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 14:02
  #66 (permalink)  
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Please check your PMs.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 14:10
  #67 (permalink)  
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purely from a passengers point of view, if I knew that just after take off, with 7 odd hours of flight ahead, one of the pilots was unwell/injured/incapacitated, I would be more than happy for us to return to the safety of the departure airport, for everyone's safety.

If nothing unforeseen goes wrong then I am sure the remaining pilot could get us there, but that's the trouble with the unforeseen.

Is it any different in safety terms to a twin engine aircraft loosing an engine on take off? You wouldn't carry on over the Atlantic, even though it could probably get there.

(I know this one has 4)
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 14:19
  #68 (permalink)  
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Sallyann1234 et al

It is a shame that having an opinion has upset so many people.

Of course the pilots took the most reasonable and safest course of action in the light of their company policy, international regulations and for the safety of the aircraft and passengers.

Sitting safely on the ground, the actions they took did not make sense to me, but I now see the reasoning behind it. I meant no personal insult to the flight crew but was trying to make a point about having moved into a culture where every incident in flight is now seen as a potential major safety issue. Perhaps it is for the best that we have moved on from the press on regardless attitudes of the past.

I have used lasers on a regular basis since the late 1960s, so I am very aware of the dangers they pose and the injuries they can cause. Retinal damage from a laser is instant and irreversible. Because the beam is focused by the lens in the eye, generally the retinal damage is restricted to a few cells, but repeated exposure will cause significant deterioration in vision. When only a small area of the retina is affected, the body compensates for the damage and apparently normal vision is restored although the damage remains. The same mechanism allows us to ignore the blind spot where the retinal nerves enter the eye for most tasks.

As stated above I acknowledge that the flight crew acted in accordance with procedures and I accept that my knowledge was lacking in this respect.

Hopefully this incident will lead to an improvement in flight safety through the culprit being found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law as a deterrent to other idiots who think lighting up an aircraft at night is a fun thing to do.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 14:41
  #69 (permalink)  
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Tourist (#46), I don't think you can draw conclusions from the Egypt experience - that crew may well have been using laser goggles or glasses, but we don't know.

The majority of laser devices are Class 1/low power and will not do damage unless there is prolonged exposure. The problem comes with the devices that are either not as advertised or actually deliver the claimed power output. Any laser capable of bursting a balloon or lighting a match (a common sales claim) is capable of producing irreparable eye damage; what sort of damage will depend on whether you look directly at the beam or it enters your eye at an 'off-boresight' angle.

There have been plenty of incidents of eye damage to children, not all of it serious but not all of it reported or treated either. It also depends where in the world you live. A&E is not full of laser casualties, true, but that is not the same as knowing there are no casualties. According to one report I read (from an NHS consultant), there were 9 youngsters in Sheffield with life-changing eye injuries in 2013 alone. There will be more.

In the meantime we need to stop people having a go at aircraft. Googles and dyes in windscreens are just about OK as defences but some of them alter depth perception, some make elements of PFDs hard to read, and all of them notch out chunks of the red and green wavelengths. LEDs have tighter radiant bandwidth and are becoming much more common because they are brighter and cheaper to run than conventional incandescent lamps, but the downside is less spectrum to spill around the notched wavelengths produced by goggles/glasses.

The next step needs to be having lasers added to the offensive weapons list, which would give police officers the stop and search powers they need to tackle this problem.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 14:44
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Wicked Lasers | Blue, Red, Green Laser Pointers

Just to show what can be purchased around the world and these aren't the worst by a long way. Just look in the tech market of Shanghai for some of the 'under the counter' stuff.

As far as 'decision making' goes any flight crew incapacitation requires a diversion. The time frame and decision making processes will obviously vary with the extent of the injury etc.

The MINIMUM number of crew for operation of a trans atlantic passenger jet is two. Any reduction below the minimum requires an emergency declaration and a diversion. If that diversion is back to the departure airfield then so be it.

To continue over the pond with below minimum crew would be illegal as well as not a bit stupid. If the crew member felt that their ability to carry out their assigned tasks as PF or PM had been degraded by the incident, irrespective of the time frame, severity or damage, then the aircraft is operating below minimum crew and the absolutely correct command decisions were taken.

It's very easy to hypothesize when you are not conversant with the rules and regs of the ANO but perhaps it would be best not to wrap that lack of knowledge up in an arm chair warrior irrelevant post.

Just my thoughts
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 15:01
  #71 (permalink)  
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Quick notes from a retired pilot:

See Richard Feynman's report on looking at the first atomic explosion. He was confident he could look right at it through a lorry wind-shield. This confidence came from knowing about photons converting their energy to and fro as they pass glass molecules. However, he ended up throwing himself on the floor of the cab with a huge mauve blotch on his vision.

Despite what we learn in physics, there seems to be no doubt eyes can be damaged from light that has passed through glass. Why?

100 yeas or so ago scientist learned roughly how the retina worked. Only recently have we learned that the layer on the front surface of the retina, thought to be an evolutionary mistake, is a breathtakingly complex neural mechanism. The point being here is the separation of blue (higher frequency) light and the more readily used red and green. The way in which the eye might be affected is not only based on the energy, but the fact that, that colour energy is treated rather differently. This activity in the front surface may well be likened to the brain's neural processing and it's not difficult to imagine just how distressing an attack on that mechanism could be even before the rods and cones are affected.

We have to consider the psychology of the crew-member's reaction to a disruption in their sight. Sitting here a few days ago after retinal eye surgery, I can tell you there were times when I felt like tearing the patch off in moments of sheer panic. You'd have to be insensitive to the point of stupidity not to be asking yourself if your sight would return, or if you'd been permanently blinded. To carry on, making decisions, the right decisions in this case, all while these things are rolling around in the back of your mind takes a lot of guts.

It happens also that I spent a lot of time writing about Classical Migraine on the medical forum. I learned a great deal about the fear in aircrew of sudden patches of blindness.

When you think about it, a large aircraft with perhaps just four tiny tissue-thin organs as the only contact with its systems and the outside world has always has been incredibly vulnerable. There is no room in this industry for mischievous or even malicious disruption of these vital surfaces. There's no need I'm sure, to extrapolate to the worst scenario.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 15:05
  #72 (permalink)  
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Stating an opinion without having all the facts is worthless. I think you should apologise and accept that you crossed the line.

If you listen to the ATC / VS25B Pan transmission, you will hear that they did indeed report the incident to ATC at the time!
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 15:07
  #73 (permalink)  
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Not just planes

Hi All,

I had a recent experience driving on a motorway in France. We had just come of an evening Eurotunnel and there was a coach with students who had been on the same shuttle. There is a stretch just east of Dunkerque with long lines of sight (3km+). I was about 900m behind the coach when someone in the back seat started lasing the cars.

Having read the threads on here I knew what was coming and was able to use the sun visor to block the direct line of sight betwen myself and the coach while still being able to see the road immediately ahead enough to brake.

The expereince was not so much a constant light, but more a strafing so bright light when the laser hit something in the car and then darkness as the firer's hand shook.

We were lucky that it was late and the road wasn't that busy and I had the prior information. If it had come as a surprise I would have struggled.

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Old 15th Feb 2016, 15:35
  #74 (permalink)  
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I am just stunned that numerous people here feel that this crew could have carried on over the Atlantic . Even in summer with benign weather and going to a less manic place than JFK it would be foolish . In winter across the N Atlantic -possible diversions to places like Gander and Bangor Maine under feet of snow plus the JFK ATC environment which basically sounds like a tobacco auction it is insanity.

to illustrate why this sort of incident must always be handled like this crew people should reflect on the incident a good few years ago of a BA 747 -100 I think flying Bahrain to london- .Three crew as an FE on board. One crew member ill pretty much at the start of trip and another who became ill en route. Experience captain carried on to LHR - approach went awry with aircraft well of centre line and having to do a very late visual go around. This ended with prosecution of the respected captain and his subsequent suicide and I am very sure the airline SOPS were changed to emphasise that a crew is a minimum and one can certainly never willing go below 2 fully fit and functioning crew members . One pilot flying on his own is emergency only situations with no alternative like sudden medical capacitation or the BA skipper who got sucked out of the window.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 15:47
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I meant no personal insult to the flight crew
So describing what they did as
an hysterical overreaction
and accusing them of
gross incompetence
is not, by your standards, insulting them personally.

Pax B
I am just stunned that numerous people here feel that this crew could have carried on over the Atlantic .
Not numerous.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 16:00
  #76 (permalink)  
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G0ULI, what a presumptuous and inappropriate comment to make.

From the CAA ALERSA page...
"If you have experienced one or more of the following after
a laser beam exposure please consult an eye specialist:
Eye problems swelling, pain, itching, watering, discharge, dryness or redness of the eye. Visual disturbance blurring, black spot, trouble reading, loss of peripheral vision, oaters, halos, poor night vision, sensitivity to light. These symptoms may not appear until hours after the incident and may not be related directly to laser exposure but could reflect other eye issues perhaps not previously noticed."

I fully support the crew's right to exercise the decision they see fit.

You don't know what was going on with the pilots eye sight, and you don't know that the laser wasn't high powered.

Having been targeted by a laser in the past, not on a commercial flight, but when flying friends at night in a piston twin, it affected my vision for quite some time that night. I ended up converting to IFR and putting the screens up because having avoided the area for around 30 minutes it started again as soon as we reached the same area, which unfortunately was not really avoidable without diverting to somewhere much further away.

I had to get the tower to turn up the HIALS to their max brightness and it was still a challenge to identify the airfield until much closer, such was the disturbance to my vision.

I sure as hell wouldn't want to endure several hours across the Atlantic like that, even if there was another crew member to relieve me. I'd rather be safely on the ground so I could see an eye specialist as soon as possible if things got worse.

Eyes are exceptionally delicate things, and one thing to consider is that cabin pressure can have all sorts of affects on the eyes following injury to it.
A friend of mine in the forces suffered ocular trauma from debris blast, an IED went off a several hundred metres away and he got blasted with stones etc... apart from the damage to his eye he was fine aside from minor cuts and scrapes, as were the rest of the guys fortunately. But he was advised not to fly for 6 months due to increased pressure in the eye, and that any change to external pressure (i.e. a high cabin altitude, or scuba diving) could severely increase his risk of developing glaucoma, and blindness.

Now I don't know what kind of damage a laser can do regarding intraocular pressure, but I sure as shit am not going to risk my eyesight by continuing a flight for several hours at high altitude if I am having problems with my eye(s) following a laser attack.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 16:38
  #77 (permalink)  

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The medical/technical discussion is interesting, but with reference to the crew's actions, can I just quote what used to be the written instruction to captains of the tea-clippers and such. "Appointed as Master, under God, for this voyage". Captain's decision - end of story.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 16:42
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Lasers should be classed as "offensive weapons" and banned in the UK - Balpa

A bit over the top?
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 17:20
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in your exceptionally misguided first post on this thread you waffled on about eye angles and distances etc. associated with being lasered from the front.

I was lasered recently at 7000' near MAN.

From the side. Just a thought. Try it. Thinking that is.

As an aside, ATC and the police made a great job of it and actually caught the fool concerned. He was using a powerful and therefore illegal laser bought on t'interweb.

All went well as the police were very keen to see the cretin done and properly. The UK judiciary had other ideas and as he'd had a difficult childhood or some such bolleaux he was just told not to be naughty any more. I was off work for a week and the eye specialist I saw was very clear that I'd been lucky as a side on hit is very bad news. Seems my natural reaction to turn to the light was in fact a bit of luck.

It'd be altogether better if it was stamped on long ago of course. IMHO this and clowns with drones are the biggest latent safety threat we face today.
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Old 15th Feb 2016, 17:34
  #80 (permalink)  
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Mark in CA

'Banned in the UK' will be hard to achieve and will not happen, but having laser pointers classified as offensive weapons will make a big difference and is certainly not over the top. That would give police the right to stop and search somebody for possession - at the moment they can't do that even if they reasonably believe the individual to have been responsible for an attack, which makes prosecution a tad difficult at times.

Banning high-power lasers (rather than all lasers) is a different question. There is work going on in Europe that may lead to high-power devices being banned in the EC - always assuming we are still part of it! - and the existing legislation in the UK supposedly limits pointers to 1mW. That becomes pretty meaningless when you can import via the internet or pick them up from the street vendors on your travels. The other issue, as mentioned earlier, is that power output is often different from the declared spec. At least with a few simple changes to the law we might be able to make a difference. We might even prevent a few life-changing injuries on the way.

We know from BALPA surveys that attacks are under-reported, possibly by a third, and that only takes account of UK operators. The overseas operators (50% of the commercial traffic) are supposed to report to their own NAAs. If we don't report all attacks we get in the UK, why should we expect others to report all attacks here as well? 2015 figures are likely to reveal 1800+ attacks, and if we apply a margin for overseas operators and UK under-reporting, we could actually be looking at 3500-4000 events (crimes) per year.

New Zealand managed to make a serious reduction in its attack rates via a combination of restrictions on power and carriage rules, and an increase in penalties. If it worked for them, it should work for us.
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