Pilot's retina burned in laser attack on BA plane

Pilots' union Balpa said lasers were a growing hazard Credit: PA

A British Airways pilot has suffered serious eye damage after a laser was shone into the cockpit of a plane landing at Heathrow, an industry trade union leader has said.

The pilot was taken to hospital with a burnt retina in one eye from the attack, believed to involve a "military strength" laser.

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said the incident was the most serious injury ever inflicted on a pilot in the UK during a laser attack.

The union has said it is concerned about the "growing threat" posed by the beams, which can distract or startle pilots at critical points in flight and also have increasing potential to cause physical injury.

Mr McAuslan said the victim had been a co-pilot at the time of the incident in March and was not operating the plane.

He was treated at a hospital in Sheffield for his injuries and has not returned to work since the incident in spring.

Balpa has found that half of pilots experienced a laser attack in the past 12 months, and has warned that the beams are "one of the growing threats to flight safety faced by pilots".

Whilst most normal pen lasers are not strong enough to burn into tissue, the increasingly sophisticated models being produced could make this a growing issue, the union said.

A statement from BA said: "The safety of our crew and our customers is always our main concern.

"We urge our pilots to report such incidents so we can make the authorities aware."