Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 10:52 UK

Pilots warn of laser beam crash

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Shining lasers at planes could cause a serious accident

Airline pilots have warned a serious crash is "likely" unless people are stopped from shining laser beams into the cockpits of planes during landing.

The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) said beams dazzled pilots and users were "effectively playing Russian roulette" with passengers' lives.

Dozens of incidents have occurred during 2008, with some pilots handing controls over to co-pilots, Balpa said.

A pilot was temporarily blinded by a laser at Cardiff Airport in August.

Planes have also been targeted while landing at Newcastle, Exeter, Norwich and Heathrow airports.

Dave Reynolds, flight safety officer for Balpa, said a pilot would know his aircraft had been targeted when a spot of light began skipping around the flight deck.

They think it's just another Nintendo game, but this is not a game, it's not a cyber-game, it's extremely dangerous, and it does need to stop
Dave Reynolds, Balpa

"It is a serious distraction at a critical phase of the flight and it is something the authorities need to take very seriously indeed," he said.

Laser incidents were becoming an "increasing nuisance" and it was "only a matter of time before an accident occurs", he said.

A pilot's ability to see can be impaired by flash blindness and pilots affected should go for a hospital check-up to ensure they have suffered no lasting eye damage, he went on to say.

'Not Nintendo'

Powerful laser pointers can be bought over the internet for 40.

The Health Protection Agency said class 3B lasers should not be sold to the general public because they were too powerful for using as pointing devices and could cause serious eye injuries.

Balpa said it had advised police forces to be on the look-out for people hanging round near airports at night with lasers.

"People don't realise - they think it's funny," a spokesman said.

"They think it's just another Nintendo game, but this is not a game, it's not a cyber-game, it's extremely dangerous, and it does need to stop.

"It's like Russian roulette. So far the perpetrators have got away with it, but one day that cartridge won't be a blank. You're playing with the lives of hundreds of people in the air," he added.


SEE ALSO
Laser blinds passenger jet pilot
18 Aug 08 |  England
Jail for helicopter laser prank
26 Jun 08 |  Merseyside
US tackles plane 'laser tracking'
12 Jan 05 |  Americas

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