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Inquiry as pilots dazzled by lasers

Hundreds of passengers on two aeroplanes were put at risk when their pilots were dazzled with lasers.

The laser beams were shone at the planes on Friday night as they were about to land at airports in the South West of England.

At around 8pm, a Thomson Airbus carrying between 170 and 180 holidaymakers and crew from Corfu was targeted as it made its final approach to land at Exeter airport, Devon.

Devon and Cornwall Police said the light appeared to come from a sports ground in the Whipton area of the city, the other side of the M5 motorway and about three miles from the airport.

A short time later at about 9.17pm, a Flybe pilot was left "shaken" when a laser was beamed into his aircraft, police said.

The plane was about to land at Newquay Cornwall airport and had 60 passengers on board.

"The pilot described it as being targeted at the plane for about 30 seconds," said Inspector Ian Milligan. "Both these incidents have been crime-recorded and we have a crime report because it is an offence to do anything that could recklessly endanger an aircraft. Aiming lasers is potentially very dangerous.

"We will conduct the investigation and anyone caught shining lasers at planes could find themselves facing substantial punishments in terms of imprisonment."

Insp Milligan said there is nothing to suggest the laser attacks were conducted by the same person and could have been coincidence.

A spokesman for the force's air operations unit, which sent its helicopter to look for the people responsible, said: "The shining of laser lights at aircraft is dangerous, can severely distract and dazzle the crew and carries the risk of eye damage. The act this evening (Friday) was particularly dangerous given the aircraft was on final approach, low to the ground and over the city."

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