Pilots demand action at North West laser attack "hotspots"

A laser pen attack on an aircraft Credit: Police

Pilots' leaders today called for action to tackle a huge increase in the number of incidents involving powerful lasers being directed at aircraft.

Cases have jumped from just three in 2004 to more than 1,500 last year, but only a handful of those responsible are ever brought to justice.

The British Airline Pilots Association warned that targeting lasers on aircraft is like playing "Russian roulette" with the lives of passengers and called for prison sentences for those responsible.

Lasers can be shone for up to a kilometre, causing a "blinding" flash in a cockpit which can last for minutes, said BALPA.

Incidents usually take place as aircraft take off or land, with "hotspots" including Manchester and Liverpool.

General secretary Jim McAuslan said: "We want regulations over the sale of high powered lasers strengthened, more prosecutions and action taken through trading standards.

"Lasers can be bought easily and cheaply. The Government should convene a cross-agency summit to discuss how to tackle this problem."

One pilot told BALPA about notes he made after having a laser shone on his aircraft: "First a bright glint on left-hand side of the nose, white, then green. Now a dancing beam flashing around us in the flight deck, a crazed flash of scattered light across the windscreens, made worse by dirt refraction.

"Can it damage my eyes? What if we get blinded? Flash blindness is a risk, but distraction and disruption at a critical point under intense stress is a threat to life itself. A laser attack could be the straw that breaks the camel's back one day - don't underestimate it."