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Why the public should disable and dump dangerous lasers

by Rob Hunter BALPA Head of Flight Safety

It is difficult to understand why anyone would endanger lives in the air or on the ground by shining a laser at an aircraft. But they do, with alarming frequency. Last year 989 laser attacks on UK aircraft were reported to the CAA in our airspace and 243 overseas. That’s 1232 times that pilots were dazzled and distracted or, looking at it another way, lives were put in danger on average over three times every single day last year by laser-wielding idiots. Below is a video that describes a laser attack from a pilot’s perspective.

We don’t know the reasons behind these attacks. We can only guess why people would put so many lives at risk. Perhaps it is deliberate mischief makers, or perhaps people mistakenly think lasers are toys that can’t cause harm.

But they can and this has to stop.

From today (10th July 2018), new laws mean police have greater powers to catch those who shine lasers at aircraft and there are tougher punishments for those caught. In fact, irresponsible and reckless use of a laser could, and probably will, lead to time in jail.

Under the new law, it is a crime to shine or direct a laser beam that dazzles or distracts, or is likely to dazzle or distract, pilots, air traffic controllers, captains of boats and drivers of road vehicles.

And just saying it was an accident won’t wash either; if someone has not taken all reasonable precautions to make sure they don’t dazzle or distract a pilot or driver then they will probably end up in jail even if they didn’t mean to do it. The new law means the police will no longer have to prove there was an intention to endanger a vehicle and BALPA will support them in pushing for the toughest penalties for those who breach this law.

That’s why BALPA is issuing advice to members of the public to disable and dump their lasers if they don’t really, really need them. It is simple. Lasers are not toys. If you have one and don’t have a legitimate reason for owning it, or if you have bought one for your kids, we suggest you take the batteries out and throw it away. It’s not worth you, or someone close to you, getting a criminal record for the sake of what is mistakenly believed to be a toy.

If you do need to keep your laser then be a responsible user. Keep it safe. Don’t allow children to play with it and NEVER SHINE IT AT AN AIRCRAFT!