70 laser attacks on police helicopters including the Hawarden based aircraft in past year
Figures revealed to Deeside.com show that in the twelve months to 7th February 2017 the National Police Air Service (NPAS) has been subjected to 70 laser attacks on its aircraft including attacks on the Hawarden based helicopter.
NPAS say in 2015 the figure was significantly higher with 91 laser attacks being recorded over the same period.
The impact from a laser attack can cause temporary ‘flash’ blindness for pilots and in some cases lasting eye damage as well as put aircraft at risk.
It is already illegal to shine lasers at pilots but under current laws police have to prove a person endangered the aircraft when shining a laser.
Now tougher sentences are being brought in for people caught shining laser pens to distract pilots, train and bus drivers.
Offenders will face fines of thousands of pounds or a jail sentence under the stronger new powers.
The first laser attack on a passenger aircraft was reported in 2004 with over 200 attacks reported per year by 2008.
Since 2011, there have been approximately 1,500 attacks per year on aircraft.
In 2015 a 16-year-old boy from Deeside was fined £65 for shining a laser pen at the Hawarden police helicopter as it searched for suspects in the area.
The “intense green light” flashed for two or three seconds for a ten minute period.
Ollie Dismore, Director of Operations for the National Police Air Service said:
Continued laser attacks on aircraft worldwide is a source of serious concern to the aviation industry. In an attack, a laser pointer is deliberately or recklessly shone at airborne aircraft, sometimes persistently over a period of minutes.
The impact on a pilot is at the very least distracting, but can be serious enough to cause temporary ‘flash’ blindness and in some cases; lasting eye damage.
Attacks in the UK increased with 1380 laser strikes on aircraft reported to the Civil Aviation Authority last year.
Many more happen on public transport such as trains and buses.
Mr Dismore continues:
What may seem harmless fun to the culprit could potentially have devastating consequences for the crew and passengers in the aircraft, innocent members of the public on the ground, as well as potentially causing harm to police aircraft which are there to protect public.
Shining laser pens at any transport operator is proposed to become an offence under new legislation. The new law will mean that police will only have to prove the offence of shining the laser and will ultimately make it even safer for aircraft travel both now and in the future.
The National Police Air Service is working with colleagues from across the UK aviation sector in order to manage the risk from laser attacks and to reduce the number of flight crews that become victims.
NPAS are currently conducting a laser protective eyewear trial which they hope will better protect staff against this threat in future.
Here’s an inside view of the hi-tec equipment police currently use in helicopters across the UK
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