Two Sundays ago, there were four separate laser pen attacks on passenger aircraft near Leeds Bradford Airport at Yeadon in West Yorkshire. Specifically, the Wharfedale Observer reported that police received reports of laser pens being shone from the Horsforth area at 10:28 pm, the Ackworth or Featherstone area at 10:50 pm, the Huddersfield or Dewsbury area at 11:55 pm and Bradford at 11:59 pm. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is carrying out an investigation of each incident while the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) is leading the call for tough action and wants to see stronger regulations on laser pens in general.
The BBC later reported the arrest of a 14 year old after a laser pen was repeatedly pointed at the West Yorkshire Police helicopter in what sounds like a separate incident. The boy has since been released on bail pending further inquiries.
Of course and for pilots, it goes without saying as to how dangerous a laser pen attack can be while trying to fly an aircraft as it can lead to temporary blindness. Richard Toomer of BALPA has been quoted as saying:
People who do this maliciously – or even through ignorance – are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives
Moreover, a quick search on Amazon.co.uk reveals plenty of laser pens available for between £1 to £5 give or take – meaning its all too easy and cheap for a minor to get a hold of one.
The good news is that the number of laser pen attacks on aircraft flying into Leeds-Bradford Airport has fallen since a change in the law that now makes it a criminal offence but that airport remains one of the worst-hit airports in the UK as according to CAA figures, there have been 22 incidents up until June. And while that’s down from 80 during the whole of 2011, its still too high.
Nevertheless, Police said crew on board the police helicopter in the West Yorkshire attack was able to use specialist equipment to direct officers on the ground to an address in Bradford where they made an arrest – meaning those who abuse laser pens should be on notice that they can be tracked down and arrested.