Captain Brendan O'Neal
BALPA Chairman
Since 2014 there have been almost 6,500 police reports nationally involving laser pens. It is an issue that presents an everyday danger to airline pilots, so much so that the crew of a recent Virgin Atlantic flight, VS25 bound for New York, took the decision to return to Heathrow after reportedly being attacked with a laser shortly after take-off. It was not an isolated incident. More than half of British pilots say they have been attacked by lasers in the past year.

While commercial airline pilots have suffered the threat from lasers since the early 1990s, the problem has started to spread. The National Police Air Service, Air Ambulance pilots, police officers, emergency services, cars, trains and even ferries have all reported incidents.

Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and now with lasers of ever-increasing strength. Beams from military strength lasers distract or startle pilots at critical points in flight and also have increasing potential to cause physical injury. There is a threat to the general public too through the sale and availability of such laser pens. Seven year old Jonathan Marshall purchased a laser at a school fair using his own pocket money. He shone the laser into his eye for only a fraction of second and has been left with permanent damage to his retina. Things need to change.

It is an area where we have been very active on behalf of our members. We have been working with a number of agencies (including the CAA, the UK Flight Safety Committee and the Police) to address this issue. We have also explained the issue at great length to the Department for Transport, with the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, and Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill MP accepting recent representations made by BALPA.

We were also delighted to hear from Rehman Chishti, Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham, last week. Mr Chishti has been campaigning to make high powered laser pens prohibited items under the law. He has proposed a Bill in Parliament which would prohibit the possession of a laser pen of more than 1 milliwatt in strength, with the offence having the same sentence as carrying a knife.

This is a position we have been calling for regularly and we were happy to provide a letter of support for his private member’s Bill.

Pilots remain very concerned about the ease of access to lasers, the increasing power of the technology and the potential they have to cause injury. We believe that lasers should be specifically included in the offensive weapons legislation so that if someone is found to be carrying a laser without good reason then they are treated in the same way as if they are carrying a knife.

Shining a laser at an aircraft in an incredibly dangerous and foolish thing to do. It puts that aircraft, its crew and all the passengers on board at completely unnecessary risk. It is vital that people understand that if they endanger flights they will be prosecuted and could face serious penalties.

Posted on 22 April 2016

Comments 2
Robin Lewis
As a pilot, I've been lasered about ten times. In the past eight years. Three of the attacks were at low level (within the pattern) and reported in detail to the police. The remainder were whilst at cruising altitude and just reported to the relevant ATCC. Such legislation being requested, is just and cannot come soon enough.

Can we have the same legislation applied to drones please? These really are going to bring an aeroplane down. Laser attacks are very serious but in no way measure up to the seriousness of drones being used as weapons, or even through mishandling. It's just a matter of time. Big business though (the likes of Amazon) have governments in their pockets over thIs one, so I and other colleagues that I have spoken with on this issue, feel the battle is lost before it's even begun. We need the same legislation for drones. Ban them. Period. How many aircraft have to crash before government's see sense on this one? If outlawed, the only drones to be seen would be of criminal intent and therefore more easily identified as such and hopefully, could then be dealt with by the various anti-drone technologies which are rapidly surfacing. Otherwise, one would be trapped into a massive waiting game of tracking and surveillance of all the planned thousands of drones which will ultimately fill our skies.
01/05/2016 13:05:32

Keith. Peers
And. Solve. The. Drone. Menace. Before. A accident. And lose. Of life.
22/04/2016 16:46:31