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Big rise in laser incidents reported


There has been a huge rise in the number of cases of people shining laser pens at planes around the UK, according to figures released by the CAA. They say the lasers pose a serious threat to flight and passenger safety, and that greater controls should be considered to stop this trend.

There have already been a total of 761 recorded instances of lasers being shone at planes so far this year, ahead of last year's total of 739 cases, and nearly 4 times as many as the whole of 2008. Richard Taylor is from the CAA and said: ‘Numbers are rising every year. The problem is not going away. It is obviously a matter for the government to decide whether to reclassify them as offensive weapons, but I think that could well happen at some time in the future.’

Green laser pens pose the most serious risk to pilots because the human eye is much more sensitive to green light. Their sale has been restricted in the UK since 1997, but they are available online and cost anything from £20. They can also be purchased overseas in countries such as Turkey for even less.

Hotspots around the UK over the last 12 months include Manchester, Heathrow, Birmingham and Leeds Bradford. Glasgow Airport is also on the list of high risk areas, and the CAA said there have been 41 cases so far this year there, including one involving a Boeing 757 carrying 200 passengers as it came in to land. Incidents at Edinburgh Airport have quadrupled to 28 so far this year.

The growing number of incidents led to a change in the law earlier this year. Offenders can now be charged with 'shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot.' There have already been a dozen successful prosecutions and police say they expect many more to follow. Those convicted could be sent to prison, or receive a fine of up to £200.

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