BA pilot’s eye damaged by ‘military’ laser shone into cockpit at Heathrow – plus many less serious attacks

A British Airways pilot has reportedly been left with significant damage to his eyesight after a “military-strength” laser was shone into the cockpit of his plane landing at Heathrow, in what appears to be the most serious laser attack to date in the UK. The pilot suffered a burned retina in his right eye and has not worked since, according to the head of BALPA. The incident has escalated concerns over the problem of laser attacks, as this was a military weaponry type laser.  BALPA claims that 50% of pilots has been in a plane targeted with lasers in the last 12 months. The risk to safety of a pilot having his vision disturbed by a laser, while coming in to land, is obvious. Many incidents appear to have come from a particular block of flats in Glasgow. Lasers have become easy to buy on the internet, and though those usually available are not strong enough to cause eye damage, they cause distraction. “When it comes into the flight deck, it bounces around the walls of the cockpit” and with the effects intensified as light is dispersed by the cockpit windows. Now military strength lasers can be obtained on the black market. There are around 4 – 5 laser attacks on planes every day in the UK, with 400 this year. The highest number of laser incidents in the UK are at Heathrow, though other airports have a higher frequency per number of planes. There have been 3,700 incidents in the USA this year.
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BA pilot’s eye damaged by ‘military’ laser shone into cockpit at Heathrow

Half of all pilots targeted in past year but latest incident involved laser used in weaponry, says pilots’ association

The Civil Aviation Authority said there have been four or five laser incidents a day in the UK since 2011.

By  Gwyn Topham (Guardian)

23.11.2015

A British Airways pilot has reportedly been left with significant damage to his eyesight after a “military-strength” laser was shone into the cockpit of his plane landing at Heathrow, in what appears to be the most serious laser attack to date in the UK.

The pilot suffered a burned retina in his right eye and has not worked since, according to the head of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa).

The incident has escalated concerns over the problem of laser attacks. Balpa claims that one in two pilots has been in a plane targeted with lasers in the last 12 months.

The unnamed BA pilot was in the co-pilot’s seat as the plane was landing at the London airport in the spring, and was later treated for eye injuries at a hospital in Sheffield, Balpa’s general secretary, Jim McAuslan, said.

British Airways said it was investigating the claims: “The safety of our crew and our customers is always our main concern. We urge our pilots to report such incidents so we can make the authorities aware.”

McAuslan said the incident showed the dangers that pilots now faced from lasers, which have become easy to buy on the internet. He said that one tenement block in Glasgow was now known as “laser block” to pilots and police from the number of planes targeted from there while landing at the city’s airport.

Less severe incidents have often been ascribed to children or youthful delinquency. McAuslan said the “kids’ ones” were not powerful enough to cause physical harm, but he said lasers used in weaponry had now become available on the black market.

He said: “We’re very concerned about it. When something as strong as this comes on the scene it starts to worry us.”

According to figures compiled by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the number of reports of laser incidents in the UK has remained relatively constant at about four to five a day on average over the last four years.

But McAuslan said that in a poll conducted for Balpa, half of all the pilots in his union had reported a laser attack in the last 12 months, and warned that even weaker lasers could have serious consequences if pilots were distracted by the beams when landing planes: “It’s a critical point in flight, you have to have complete concentration. When it comes into the flight deck, it bounces around the walls of the cockpit.”

A spokesperson for Balpa added: “Lasers are one of the growing threats to flight safety faced by pilots along with fatigue, weakening regulation and security.

“We are also aware of concern around the ease of access to lasers, the increasing power of the technology and the potential they have to cause injury.”

More than 400 incidents were reported in the UK in the first six months of this year, according to the CAA, with the highest number of incidents around Heathrow – although in proportion to air traffic, regional airports including Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, Newcastle and East Midlands have a far higher frequency.

In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration said the number of incidents had grown steadily since it started collating information on laser attacks in 2005. More than 3,700 incidents have been reported in the US this year.

The FBI has released public information films to warn about the effects of laser pointers, explaining how beams can blind pilots at night, with their effects intensified as light is dispersed by the cockpit windows. A Californian man was sentenced to 14 years in prison in March this year for pointing a laser at a police helicopter.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/23/ba-pilots-eye-damaged-by-military-laser-shone-into-cockpit-at-heathrow

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See earlier:

 

Man jailed for pointing laser pen at three passenger planes and a helicopter

A man has been jailed for endangering three passenger planes and a police helicopter with a laser pen he bought for just £1.

By DAN TOWNEND (Express)
23.10.2015

The aircraft had to be diverted after a Ryanair pilot spotted the green laser beam near the South Wales coast.

Liam Chadwick, 28, pleaded guilty at Cardiff Crown Court to recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger aircraft but claimed he did not know he was breaking the law.

Prosecutor Tracey Lloyd-Nesling told the court: “The Ryanair flight was 10 miles out of Bristol when it reported the laser. Six minutes later a second flight turned to avoid it and one minute after that a Thomson plane was also turned. All said they saw the same thing coming from the east of Cardiff.”

The police helicopter was sent to investigate.

Judge Rhys Rowlands said the consequences to those travelling on those aircraft and to others on the ground could have been catastrophic

Ms Lloyd-Nesling said: “Its pilot was very well aware of the dangers having previously been subjected to an attack when a laser hit him in the eye. He had to see an optician to find out if he was fit to fly again.”

The pilot pinpointed the beam to a top-floor flat in St Mellons.

When police arrived they found Chadwick and his girlfriend and parts of a laser pen which had been dismantled.

Chadwick at first denied knowing anything about it but later admitted he had been “trying it out”.

His barrister Ruth Smith said: “He accepts he was reckless in playing with it but he didn’t see the aircraft high in the night sky. He would never have played with a laser if he had known it was a criminal act.” She described Chadwick, who has a history of depression, as “a vulnerable young man”.

Jailing him for six months, Judge Rhys Rowlands told him: “The consequences to those travelling on those aircraft and to others on the ground could have been catastrophic.”

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/614278/Man-jailed-laser-pen-pointing-three-passenger-planes-helicopter

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and

Laser pen attacks on aircraft continue to cause safety concerns

There has been an issue for some years, of highly irresponsible use of laser pointers, with them being shone at planes approaching airports. This can have the effect of temporarily damaging the vision of the pilots, which is highly unsafe, and could even cause a crash – especially if the plane is below 1,000 feet and the pilot’s vision is damaged for over a minute. The guidance from BALPA etc is perhaps to switch to autopilot, maybe if necessary do a go-around, or even switch to a different runway or different airport. Recent figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show there were 284 incidents in the 3 months from February to March 2015. The highest number of laser incidents during this time was at Heathrow, with 34. Then London City airport 21, Birmingham 18, Leeds-Bradford 15, Manchester 12, and Newcastle 10, Glasgow and Gatwick.  The total number of laser attacks in the UK in 2014 was 1,400 that were reported to the CAA in 2014  – up by 3.5% from 2013. There were also another 312 attacks involved British aircraft landing at or taking off from airports overseas. Shining a laser at an aircraft in flight is a criminal offence under UK law and if convicted, offenders can face a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. BALPA wants mandatory prison terms for all offenders. The sale of powerful lasers is restricted in Britain but they can be bought online. 

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2015/10/laser-pen-attacks-on-aircraft-continue-to-cause-safety-concerns/

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and even earlier:

 

Man who shone laser pen at police helicopter avoids jail ‘by a whisker’

Stuart Bowering given 12-month community order after court told he nearly caused pilot to stray into Bristol airport airspace

Tuesday 10 April 2012 ( Guardian) Last modified on Thursday 19 June 2014
A father of five who accidentally shone a laser pen at a police helicopter, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing, has been told by a judge that he had avoided jail “by a whisker”.

Stuart Bowering was facing a possible prison sentence after a court was told the laser had impaired the crew’s vision.

Bristol crown court heard that the 31-year-old’s actions in December last year had almost caused the helicopter to stray into Bristol airport’s airspace, which could have resulted in the diversion of a commercial flight that was coming in to land.

During the period of time the laser was shone into the cockpit – approximately three seconds – the pilot, Paul Maddox, said it put “temporary black spots” in his vision.

Bowering – who pleaded guilty to a charge of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft – told the court he had not realised the power of the laser pen.

The self-employed builder was walking his two dogs with his 10-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son near his home in Hartcliffe at about 9.10pm on 3 December, when he directed the laser he was using to make his dogs run around into the sky.

Asked if he was aware of the helicopter, Bowering said: “I heard it, but I didn’t realise it was that close. I was moving the pen in a figure of eight on the ground and then flung it up in the air to confuse the dogs.

“I’ve seen the CCTV and my reaction was that I was shocked from the power of the pen. I didn’t realise it would go that far up in the sky.”

Bowering told the court he had been trying to wear his dogs out and despite the CCTV showing the laser passing through the cockpit and back again he had not meant to direct it at the helicopter.

Following the incident Bowering was traced to his address and immediately admitted he owned the pen.

Nigel Fryer, defending, said: “This isn’t a man who had deliberately gone out to target the helicopter.

“He is extremely sorry for his actions. He did not realise the gravity of his actions, he did not realise the law and he certainly did not realise the power of the pen.”

Bowering was handed a 12-month community order, including attendance at a Thinking and Skills course, a three-month curfew between the hours of 9pm and 6.30am and was told he would have to repay £200 in court costs.

Passing sentence, the judge, Recorder Harry Martineau, said: “It is clear from the video recording I have seen that you were out with your children and two dogs when you were playing around with this laser pen.

“You have said the contact between the pen and the helicopter was an accident. I accept the initial point was an accident but it does seem to be something you repeated.

“I hope you have taken on board what is in the pilot’s statement that what you did almost caused him to trespass on the airspace of Bristol airport and cause a diversion of a commercial flight.

“People who attempt to target helicopters in this stupid and idiotic way should expect to go to prison.

“It is only by a whisker that I find you did not do this on purpose. I should have sent you to prison but as it is, I didn’t.

“It is clear you need some help thinking through the consequences of your actions.”

The incident was one of a growing number of attacks on aircraft with laser pointers, which emit a beam of light and are designed for indoor use to highlight items during presentations.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/apr/10/laser-pen-police-helicopter-sentence

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What are laser pens?

 

There is some info on Ebay at  http://www.ebay.co.uk/gds/High-power-Green-Laser-Pens-pointers-What-are-they-/10000000007699618/g.html (with absolutely no warnings that shining them at planes or helicopters is illegal, or that they can damage eyes).

This says:
Green laser pens, the latest craze sweeping around the world. You have probably never heard of them before? Surely every one knows about RED laser pens? Shining it about and seeing how far it will go, reaching the top of building and over fields.

Well now Green Laser pens are now available. They used to be out of the reach of the general public due to the high cost and bulky weight. But due to advances in technology and developments, Green laser pens have come down in price, and size to be easily accessible to all.

There are a few things you need to know about Green laser pens

Firstly, they come in different power ratings. The power rating is in mW which stands for milliWatts. The minimum is 1mW. Most start with 5mW though. They can go all the way upto 500mW although 100mW is more the norm as after that the Price is just spot on. The more powerful the unit is, the further the green laser beam can be projected. A 5mW can be seen for 2 miles!!!

……….. and it goes on ……..

Green laser pointers have been around for a few years but what are they? We have all seen the red laser pointer \ pen but green is completely different. The most common type are DPSS, ( diode pumped solid state).  They are also 50 times brighter than red. With green laser’s, you can see the beam as well as the very bright dot. Green laser pointers are the preferred laser pointer because green is the most visible laser pointer color. The reason why green is more visible is the human eye is most sensitive to green light. Class 3B lasers may have an output power of up to 500 mW (half a watt) and a laser with an output power of around 100mW and above is capable of melting black plastic (Bin bags), making holes in bin liners and popping black coloured balloons or balloons marked with a black marker pen. To give you an idea of what to expect, if you were to enter a room that is pitch black and used the laser on the ceiling, you would be able to see everything in the room. It lights the room up in a green aura.

……… and it goes on  ….and on ………….