Attacks with lasers on commercial airliners

Friday 23, July 2010


Attacks with lasers on commercial airliners


The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) today called on residents of West London and Surrey to report to the police any sightings of green lasers being shone at aircraft after dark following a spate of recent incidents at Heathrow.


A passenger jet was targeted by one of the devices shortly after take-off on the evening of Saturday 17 July. Police believe the attack came from the Staines area. The CAA said there were two other similar attacks in the area on the same night. Both aircraft were on decent into Heathrow.


Distracting or dazzling a pilot with a light or laser represents a serious safety risk, the CAA said, particularly during critical phases of flight such as take-off and landing when a pilot’s concentration is at maximum levels.


The numbers of reported incidents of this type have increased 25 times in only two years. In 2009 there were a total of 737 attacks with lasers on commercial airliners, air ambulances and police helicopters across the UK, a considerable increase on the 29 incidents in 2007. In 2009 there were 18 incidents at Heathrow, so far this year there have already been 17 reported attacks.


Captain Bob Jones, Head of Flight Operations at the CAA, said: “Lasers are not toys, they pose a serious risk to all flight safety. I advise individuals who may think shining one of these things at an aircraft is a bit of fun, to think again. The chances of getting caught are increasing rapidly and, once caught, criminal charges are now inevitable. Anyone who witnesses a laser being shone at an aircraft should contact the police immediately - just as they would observing any other criminal act.”


The malicious use of lasers against aircraft has become a global problem in recent years with large numbers of incidents reported in the USA, Australia and Canada. Other airports reporting high numbers of laser incidents in the UK included Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Leeds Bradford. The CAA said that it was encouraging the aviation industry to unite around the problem by reporting incidents to police air support units as soon as they happen. Concerted action could see culprits detected within minutes.



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