Laser attacks on planes rise
Heathrow flights targeted most often
LASER attacks on flights at Heathrow are on the rise, with the latest stats from Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Data showing incidents more than doubled since the previous three-month period.
Heathrow Airport suffered 14 attacks between April and June 2015, which rose to 35 in the year’s third quarter, from July to September – the most recent figures available.
There were more attacks in August and September than in the previous five months put together.
The statistics, comprising events reported to the CAA, reveal a worrying increasing trend in the attacks, which can cause temporary vision loss associated with flash blindness to airline pilots.
The latest spate of incidents saw Heathrow suffer two attacks within 10 days in February.
A Virgin Atlantic flight heading for New York had to double back on itself as a ‘precautionary measure’ due to the copilot feeling unwell, after a laser attack on February 14.
Eight days later, another laser was shone at a British Airways flight on the evening of Monday, February 22 but it did not endanger the aircraft, with the plane landing succesfully.
CAA’s latest report also showed that Heathrow Airport suffered more laser attacks than any other UK airport, up to September 2015.
Summer saw a surge of attacks, with a staggering 196 in the whole of UK during August 2015, 17 of which were at Heathrow –again the highest in the UK – with Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle all suffering 13 that month.
A Heathrow spokesperson says their top priority is “maintaining the safety of our passengers and colleagues”.
The spokesperson said: “We have a very robust security regime in place and we are always responsive and vigilant when it comes to new threats.
“As part that regime, we don’t comment on the specific measures we have in place, but will continue to work with partners to ensure that UK airspace remains safe.”
Shortly after the attacks in February, a pilot’s union urged the government to classify lasers as ‘offensive weapons’ therefore giving more powers to the police to crack down on those using them.
Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), said: “Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with everincreasing strength.
“It is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Shining a laser at an aircraft puts that aircraft, its crew and all the passengers on board at completely unnecessary risk.”
attacked with lasers at an alarming rate