Sunday, December 10

Heathrow Airport tops country for incredibly dangerous laser attacks on aircraft



Aircraft using Heathrow Airport saw almost twice as many incredibly dangerous laser attacks than any other UK airport last year, new figures show.

Pilots taking off or landing at the west London hub suffered 151 incidents in 2016.

This is up from 121 during the previous year, an increase of a quarter, according to aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The second most targeted airport was Glasgow Airport, which saw laser attacks almost double to 83 in 2016.

Former RAF and British Airways pilot Steve Landells warned that shining a laser at an aircraft is “incredibly dangerous”.

Mr Landells, flight safety specialist at pilots’ association Balpa, said: “The power of these devices is increasing and we’re concerned that, if left to escalate without significant intervention, we could see a serious incident happen in the near future.”

Birmingham was third at 73, followed by Manchester (72), London City (62) and London Gatwick (55).

The total for the whole of the UK was 1,258, down from 1,439 during the previous year.

Last summer, the head of the CAA called for people found carrying powerful laser pointers to be arrested even if they are not using them.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of the regulator, told the Press Association: “Why does Joe Bloggs walking down the street need a laser that can pop a balloon at 50 miles, that can cause permanent damage to a pilot?”

Earlier this month, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced plans to introduce new legislation meaning people who shine lasers at pilots could be jailed or face hefty fines.

It is already an offence to endanger aircraft by shining lasers at pilots, and offenders can be fined up to £2,500.

But under the bolstered plans, police will only have to prove the offence of shining the laser.

The powers and penalties will be outlined in upcoming legislation.

The first laser attack on an aircraft was reported in 2004, with over 200 attacks each year by 2008.

Since 2011, there have been around 1,500 attacks annually.