September 29, 2008

Aircraft Crash Warnings


AIRLINE pilots warned yesterday that a serious crash was likely unless actionwas taken to stop members of the public shining powerful laser pointers into the cockpit of planes coming in to land.

The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) said the perpetrators were dazzling pilots and effectively playing Russian roulette with hundreds of passengers.

There have been dozens of laser incidents at airports around the UK in the last year, Balpa said, with dazzled pilots forced to hand controls over to their co-pilot on a number of occasions.

Powerful laser pointers can easily be bought over the internet, with class 3B devices available for as little as pounds 40 on auction websites.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said class 3B lasers should not be available for sale to the general public as they are too powerful for use as pointing devices, and can cause serious eye injuries.

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

"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.

"These incidents are an increasing nuisance. Luckily nothing has gone wrong to date but it's only a matter of time before an accident occurs.

"The pilot's ability to see can be impaired by flash blindness and we suggest they go to hospital for a check-up to make sure they have suffered no lasting eye damage."

The latest incident came in August, when the pilot of a Boeing 737-300 passenger plane coming in to land at Cardiff Airport was dazzled by a green light pointed at the aircraft by someone on the ground.

Planes have also been targeted with lasers at Newcastle, Exeter, Norwich and Heathrow airports, Balpa said.

"It's like Russian roulette. So far the perpetrators have got away with itYou're playing with the lives of hundreds of people in the air."

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