Lasers

 Background

Laser illumination of aircraft continues to be a significant threat to aviation and pilots say attacks endangers the passengers, crew and people on the ground
 
BALPA is working with a number of agencies (including the CAA, the UK Flight Safety Committee and the Police) to address this issue, and while reports of attacks have reduced in recent years, we are still seeing worryingly high numbers of incidents in the UK involving lasers being directed at both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.
 
A laser attack on an aircraft will inevitably startle and dazzle the pilots and may result in significant pilot distraction. At the same time pilots are concerned about the increasing power of laser beams and the potential they have to cause a serious crash or damage pilots’ eyes.

 Statistics

  • There are around two reported laser attacks on aircraft each day in UK airspace, with the CAA receiving 775 reports in 2018
  • 42% of BALPA members have experienced a laser attack in the last 12 months
(*Figures from the BALPA membership survey 2019)

 BALPA Position

BALPA has worked with the police, Government, airlines and regulators to look at ways to tackle the laser menace head on.
 
In 2018, we welcomed the introduction of tougher laws, thanks to our tireless campaigning.
 
Previously, intent to endanger the aircraft had to be proven. That is no longer necessary and now the act of shining a laser at an aircraft is considered endangerment in itself. It comes with up to a five-year prison sentence, an unlimited fine, or both.
 
Pilots say people need to understand that lasers are not toys. They can cause serious distraction and pointing them at an aircraft could cause a crash.
 
BALPA believes education is the key. The public needs to understand the dangers associated with lasers and anyone who puts a flight at risk will be prosecuted and imprisoned.
 
Pilots understand there are legitimate uses for lasers and are not calling for a ban on all devices. But BALPA believes there should be restrictions on the sale and importation of all but the lowest powered lasers.
 
BALPA is also calling for police to be given greater powers to confiscate laser devices and arrest people if they’re carrying them without good cause.