Leeds airport bosses call for crackdown after thousands of laser incidents reported to police

LEEDS airport bosses are calling for tighter restrictions over the use of laser pens after police received thousands of reports over their misuse '“ putting pilots and passengers at risk.

Leeds Bradford Airport.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Leeds Bradford Airport. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

The news comes just weeks after it was revealed that Leeds Bradford Airport is the UK’s third worst for laser pen incidents.

The Government is being urged to class laser pens as ‘offensive weapons’ as new figures show almost 6,500 police reports have been filed over laser pen incidents since 2014, involving aeroplane cockpits, cars and homes.

Tony Hallwood, Leeds Bradford Airport’s aviation development director, said: “Leeds Bradford Airport welcomes calls for restrictions on the use of laser pens.

“We will work closely with the authorities and the police to ensure that any person using such a pen in an inappropriate manner is apprehended.”

Dozens of planes have been targeted by lasers at Leeds Bradford Airport in recent years – prompting bosses to back plans to class them as ‘offensive weapons’.

Leeds Bradford Airport is supporting the crackdown after it was named the UK’s third worst for laser pen incidents.

In 2010 it became illegal to shine a light at an aeroplane in flight with the aim of ‘dazzling or distracting’ the pilot.

If the incident is serious, a person could be found guilty of ‘reckless endangerment’ and sent to prison.

But flight safety experts are calling for further changes to the law to allow police to act when they have reasonable suspicion of misuse.

Stephen Landells, flight safety expert at the British Airline Pilots Association, said: “If you take away the pilot’s vision at night the consequences could be disastrous.

“If the police get a report that aircraft are being lasered [...] and they find someone standing there with a laser in their pocket, there is nothing they can do at the moment because lasers don’t come under the offensive weapon legislation.

“We want lasers to come under that same legislation so the police can say we have reasonable suspicion and they can be arrested.”

Since 2014 there have been almost 6,500 police reports involving laser pens, including more than 400 cases of aircraft being targeted.

In February, a Virgin Atlantic flight to New York was forced to return to Heathrow after a laser was shone at the cockpit. Shortly afterwards, a British Airways plane from Amsterdam was also affected.

As previously reported in the YEP, 8,998 laser incidents were reported to the UK Civil Aviation Authority between 2009 and June 2015.

Topping the list for the number of most frequent laser incidents for the first six months of last year was London Heathrow with 48, followed by Birmingham with 32 and Leeds Bradford with 24.