The union representing pilots (BALPA) has announced that it is only a matter of time before a crash is caused by people using laser pointers to dazzle pilots as they come into land.
There were literally dozens of incidents last year where co-pilots had to assume control after the pilot was temporarily blinded, and in the last month alone a plane landing at Cardiff and one at Edinburgh were involved in potentially fatal incidents. In addition to the temporary blindness, laser attacks can also cause disorientation and uncontrollable sneezing attacks, all-in-all a lethal combination when trying to land a plane. South Wales police are investigating the incident at Cardiff airport when a laser was shone on a plane at 4,000 feet. Because of the height of the plane it has been difficult to pinpoint the direction from which the light came but the perpetrator, if caught, could find himself facing a prison sentence.
In America there have been 900 incidents in the last four years and the authorities are considering treating offenders as domestic terrorists. At present, offenders face 20 years in prison and a fine of $25,000. Australia too has its fair share of laser users and even the famous Royal Flying Doctor plane complete with patient on board has fallen victim. Offenders in Australia face 5 years in prison if caught.
The lasers, usually imports from China or Russia and designed for astronomy, can be bought over the internet for as little as £10 and there is no doubt that in the wrong hands can be catastrophic.