August 20, 2008
Plane Hit By Laser Danger
A PASSENGER jet was lucky to avoid disaster when a laser device was targeted at the pilot as he approached Durham Tees Valley Airport.
The KLM flight from Amsterdam was three and a half miles fromthe airport when the green light was shone at the cockpit.
Although the plane and its 40 passengers touched down safely, the British Airline Pilots Association today said the "extremely dangerous" behaviour could have caused a "disaster".
The blinding beam was also aimed at a Cleveland Police helicopter that was searching an area outside of the airport, near Darlington.
The KLM pilot reported the laser sighting to air traffic control on Sunday after his co-pilot noticed the green flash of light.
Cleveland Police were informed and the police helicopter radioed to officers on the ground. A man was arrested at 11pm.
A spokeswoman for the KLM flight, which was due to land at 9.40pm, stressed that the pilot had made a normal landing.
"As the pilot came in for the final approach the co-pilot noticed a flash at the side of the plane," she said.
"They informed air traffic control because seeing a flash of light like that is not normal.
They will now file an air safety report."
She said stories that the co-pilot had to land the plane because the pilot was blinded by the laser were not true.
"It was a perfectly normal landing," she said.
A spokesman for the British Airline Pilots Association said the laser could have blinded both pilots which would have put more than 40 lives at risk.
He said: "These incidents are increasing and they are extremely dangerous.
"The police around our airports are vigilant but some foolish people think it's a prank to use these laser beams.
"Had they blinded both the pilot and the co-pilot there could have been a disaster."
A police spokeswoman said: "A 19-year-old man has been charged with endangering an aircraft after a laser was directed at a KLM flight which was coming into Durham Tees Valley Airport at 10.30pm on Sunday.
"The device was also shone toward the police helicopter which was returning from its duties to its base at the airport.
"Officers on the ground managed to locate a suspect and he was arrested and charged with two counts of endangering an aircraft. A laser device was also seized by the officers."
An airport confirmed the incident was being investigated but said as someone had been charged they could not comment further.
A 19-year-old man is due to appear at Teesside Magistrates Court on Friday charged with two counts of endangering an aircraft.
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