Laser at­tacks on planes rise

Heathrow flights tar­geted most of­ten

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Kather­ine Clemen­tine

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.”


Air­craft are

at­tacked with lasers at an alarm­ing rate

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