Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Laser aircraft menace 'on increase'

Experts are worried about the increasing misuse of lasers to blind aircraft pilots

Air traffic experts are worried by the increasing use of ground-based lasers to blind pilots.

The Eurocontrol agency said there were 4,266 incidents in Europe last year, compared to just 1,048 in 2008.

"Preventing and mitigating the current problem requires a harmonised approach throughout Europe," Eurocontrol safety expert Dragica Stankovic said.

"We need the full involvement of regulators, judicial authorities, police, airlines and their associations, air navigation service providers, laser manufacturers who must understand how serious the problem is, as well as research institutes."

Interference with commercial airlines is already a crime in some nations such as Britain, Sweden and Austria., but most EU states do not have such laws.

Typically, after police find and arrest the attackers, they will just question and then free them.

Laser interference generally involves people directing powerful beams at aircraft on take off or on the final landing approach, the most critical phases of flight when pilots need to be their most alert.

In several recent cases, pilots flying the aircraft have been forced to hand the controls over to their co-pilots after being temporarily blinded.

While the so-called green lasers now in use can temporarily blind pilots, more powerful blue lasers which are now commercially available could cause permanent damage, Eurocontrol warned.

Helicopters, such as police and ambulance or rescue choppers, are especially vulnerable to laser attacks because they fly at lower altitudes than airliners. There have also been instances when lasers were directed at air traffic control towers.

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