British pilots warn against growing laser threat

British pilots warn against growing laser threat

More than half of British pilots say they have been distracted by lasers while flying in 2015, according to a new survey amid skyrocketing sales of the hand- held device in recent years.

Figures showing the number of incidents in which lasers have been shone into the cockpits of aircraft while they are landing or taking off have prompted calls for the devices to be treated as offensive weapons", the Sunday Times reported.

A survey of 810 pilots commissioned by the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) found that 55 per cent of respondents had experienced a laser attack in the past 12 months and 4 per cent had suffered six or more.

"Shining a laser into a cockpit can temporarily blind the pilots, often for some time, putting the aircraft and its passengers at needless risk. We believe all but the lowest-powered lasers should be strongly regulated, and treated as offensive weapons,"said Jim McAuslan, Balpa's general secretary.

Sales of hand-held lasers have skyrocketed in recent years.

They are legitimately bought by business people and lecturers wanting to use them for presentations and amateur astronomers who use the beams to pinpoint stars.

Official figures from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) show reports of lasers being shone at aircraft in the UK have risen from 746 in 2009 to 1,442 in 2014 — equivalent to about four laser incidents each day.

The Balpa survey says that the true number may be even higher, as a significant number of pilots do not report attacks.

Balpa, which has 8,699 members, said that the CAA was notified of fewer than two-thirds of incidents.

Last year, a British Airways pilot sustained a burnt retina and has been unable to fly after a laser was shone into his eyes as his aircraft prepared to land at Heathrow. 

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