Heathrow is laser targeting 'hotspot'

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 (Balpa) 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, Glasgow, Liverpool and Heathrow, said Balpa.

"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."

– Jim McAuslan, British Airline Pilots Association