Laser pen attacks on planes 'playing Russian roulette with people's lives' (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Four attacks in one night on planes at Leeds Bradford Airport
People shining laser pens at planes using Leeds-Bradford Airport are playing “Russian roulette” with lives, an association of pilots warned last night.
The stark warning comes after four separate incidents on Sunday when the lasers were shone at passenger aircraft flying in and out of the airport at Yeadon , while a 14-year-old boy was arrested on the same evening for shining a laser at the West Yorkshire Police helicopter.
Now the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) is leading the calls for tough action against people caught shining lights at planes and helicopters and wants to see stronger regulations on the lasers.
Richard Toomer, of BALPA, said the lives of everybody on a plane could be “at risk” in the laser pen attacks.
“Shining lasers at aircraft is very stupid and very dangerous and it is likely to land you in serious trouble,” he said.
“Pilots can easily be temporarily blinded by laser attacks. Being blinded or dazzled by these incredibly bright lasers puts everyone’s life on board that aircraft at risk.
“People who do this maliciously – or even through ignorance – are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.”
He wants more people jailed if they are convicted of the offence.
“Anybody putting aircraft at risk on approach to Leeds Bradford International Airport, or attacking police helicopters, must be held accountable and the justice system must recognise the seriousness of this offence and deal with them accordingly. Certainly custodial sentences should be the norm,” Mr Toomer said.
“A longer term way of dealing with this problem is by having stronger regulation over the sale, import and licensing of strong laser devices which BALPA supports.”
A spokesman for LBA confirmed the four last attacks had taken place on aircraft and been reported to police and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which will investigate each incident.
Police received reports of lasers being shone from the Horsforth area at 10.28pm, the Ackworth or Featherstone area at 10.50pm, the Huddersfield or Dewsbury area at 11.55pm and Bradford at 11.59pm.
CAA spokesman, Richard Taylor, said: “It is very dangerous – people who are doing it need to understand that it is dangerous, it could cause a loss of control and could have terrible consequences, so this needs to be stopped.”
Meanwhile at 11pm on Sunday, the police helicopter was repeatedly targeted with a green laser pen.
The crew used specialist equipment to direct officers on the ground to an address in Little Horton , Bradford, where a teenager was arrested on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
A laser pen was also seized.
John Whittaker, who leads the West Yorkshire Police Air Support Unit, said: “Shining a laser at an aircraft is very serious and potentially very dangerous.
“As well as putting the pilot and crew in danger, it can also delay the helicopter from dealing with jobs where time is of critical importance.
“We take every single attack very seriously.”
Pilots at private aviation company Multiflight which is based at LBA have also urged people not to aim a laser pointer at or near an aircraft.
Multiflight said helicopter pilots, including the air ambulance helicopter pilots, say laser pointers are a “real nuisance and interfere with night vision, distracting pilots from flying”.
“Members of the public need to be aware of how dangerous laser pointers are and that they can cause aircraft to crash,” the company said.
“Pilots’ eyes get used to seeing at night and the laser pointers can adversely affect their night vision.”
All the incidents took place less than a fortnight after the Telegraph & Argus reported how the number of laser attacks on planes flying into Leeds-Bradford Airport had fallen since a change in the law made it a criminal offence – although it remained one of the worst-hit airports in the country.
Figures from the CAA revealed there have been 22 incidents where laser lights have been shone as flights take off and land at the Yeadon airport up until June – compared with 80 during the whole of 2011.
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has written to MP Theresa Villiers, at the department of transport asking what the Government is doing to reduce the number of attacks.
It is understood he received a letter in response in June stating the Government is working with the CAA to pinpoint attack ‘hotspots’ and is working on new guidance for police forces across the country.