England

Nearly 100 cases of laser pens aimed at South East pilots this year

Laser pen
Image caption There have been 68 reported laser incidents directed at Heathrow planes, and 23 aimed at Gatwick pilots this year

Nearly 100 cases of laser pens being shone into the cockpits of planes using Heathrow and Gatwick airports have been reported to police since January.

The high-powered devices can send a beam several miles high when shone from the ground, dazzling pilots.

Kent Conservative MP Rehman Chishti has campaigned for pens above 1 milliwatt (mW) in strength to be banned.

"Australia and New Zealand have banned them. Why are we not doing the same?" the Gillingham and Rainham MP asked.

Mr Chishti wants to make it illegal to be in possession of such a pen.

If passed in Parliament, his Laser Pens (Regulation of Sales, Ownership and Usage) Bill would have the same sentence as carrying a knife.

Image copyright Conservative Party
Image caption Rehman Chishti has campaigned for pens above 1 milliwatt (mW) in strength to be banned

"I accept there are certain laser pens which people use on their day-to-day activities, in schools and to highlight certain things.

"But over a certain power, in this case 1mW, you think 'why do you need to have a laser pen over a certain strength?'," he said.

So far this year, there have been 68 reported laser incidents directed at planes flying into and out of Heathrow, and 23 aimed at Gatwick pilots.


Areas where there have been sightings of laser pens since the start of 2016

  • Crawley, Chichester, Hastings, Brighton - Sussex
  • Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks - Kent
  • Smallfields, Newchapel, Lingfield, Horley - Surrey

Source: Sussex Police


Darren Taylor, from Gatwick Airport Police, said one pen surrendered to officers earlier this year was 2,000mW.

Former commercial pilot Alastair Rosenschein said pilots would naturally turn away from such a light coming through the cockpit window.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDemonstration of a powerful laser pen

"The green light comes through the cockpit and it scatters everywhere, and you naturally close your eyes and duck - not what you want to do when you're flying an aircraft," Mr Rosenschein said

"If the pilots are turning their heads away, not looking at the instruments... then that's clearly not a safe situation," he said.

Mr Taylor said in one instance there was a report of three laser pens being shone at aircraft over a period of days.

Britain's largest pilots union, BALPA, said it was concerned about the high number of laser attacks in recent years.

"We believe high-powered lasers need to be treated as potential weapons," it said.

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