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Pilots call for greater safety in the skies at TUC

The increase in laser attacks on pilots and drones near-misses with planes at UK airports has prompted pilots to call on aviation authorities for a greater commitment to improving regulation.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) put forward the motion at the Trades Union Congress 2016 in Brighton today.

This comes after figures show that reports of incidents involving drone near-misses with planes have increased from 29 in 2015 to 42 so far in 2016.

Reports of laser attacks were recorded at 1,439 in 2015 with 55% of pilots saying they have experienced a laser attack in the past 12 months.

Leo Nugent, a pilot and member of BALPA’s National Executive Council, spoke at the event. In his speech he said:

“BALPA’s number one mission is to make every flight a safe flight.

“Over recent years two new significant threats have emerged and we need to deal with them.

“Firstly, lasers. Shining high-powered lasers at an aircraft is dangerous; it’s reckless; and it’s illegal.

“These attacks also usually occur during take-off or landing – the critical phases of flight when the pilot’s actions are sensitive and time-critical.

“BALPA has been campaigning for a long time for high-powered lasers to be treated as what they are – offensive weapons.

“The second emerging threat is drones. Drones are an exciting new development for aviation, and, indeed, we have opened BALPA membership to drone operators who will be growing in number in the coming years.

“But we need to make sure that drones do not pose a threat to aircraft. So far this year there have been 42 reports of near-misses involving drones.

“The Government will be introducing drone regulation in its Modern Transport Bill in the current parliamentary session. The TUC should work to influence this Bill to ensure that safety is the priority, so that the public are protected, and so we can all fully embrace the possibilities of drone technology, safe in the knowledge that the risk is minimised.”

Brian Strutton, BALPA General Secretary, said:

“We believe it is only a matter of time before a major accident is caused by a drone collision or a pilot being incapacitated by a laser strike unless something is done to prevent it.