Lives put at risk as laser attacks continuePosted: September 12, 2012
Lives are being put at risk as lasers are continuing to be aimed towards aircraft arriving and departing Cardiff Airport.
On 14th August 2012 an airbus A320 that seats up to 180 passengers suffered a laser attack while being vectored on to final approach at Cardiff Airport. It is believed that it was shone from the Caerphilly area.
On 20th August 2012 the South and East Wales Air Support Unit posted on their twitter feed that they had attending a search for a person responsible for shining a laser at an aircraft. The person was arrested in the Ely area of Cardiff.
In 2011 there were 1,900 reported laser attacks on aircraft in the UK and the main hotspots were Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leads Bradford and Heathrow. There were 28 incidents reported on flights arriving or departing Cardiff Airport which represented 1.47% of all incidents reported.
To date there has been 10 reported incidents of laser attacks on flights arriving or departing Cardiff Airport in 2012 which seem to suggest the number of incidents around the area is reducing slightly but not enough.
Laser attacks are not confined to commercial aircraft and have been aimed towards the helicopters of the air ambulance and South & East Wales Air Support Unit in the past.
Aircraft are particularly vulnerable during critical phases of flight, such as take-off and landing, when pilots apply maximum concentration. Any distraction to a pilot’s attention during these phases is dangerous. However, to introduce an intense light into a darkened flight deck is hazardous in the extreme. A laser beam can refract through tiny abrasion on the exterior of the cockpit windscreen and thereby illuminate the entire flight deck. An aircraft on final approach at 1,000ft has around one minute before it reaches the threshold of the runway and touches down. A pilot dazzled by a laser can be blinded for up to 10 seconds followed by over a minute of impaired vision. The risks to passengers and crew are all too obvious.
Pilots temporarily blinded by lasers have so far suffered no lasting damage to their sight. The immediate affect of a laser blinding lasts for several seconds, followed by several minutes of transient visual effects such as glare, flashblindness, and after-image.
Pilots are encouraged to report any laser attack instantly to air traffic controllers along with the general direction of where the laser was shone from. The air traffic controllers notify the police who will search for the suspects and arrest them.
Individuals caught shinning a laser at an aircraft can now be charged with the specific offence of targeting an aircraft in flight with a laser of light. Article 222 of the Air Navigation Order states: A person must not in the United Kingdom direct or shine any light at any aircraft in flight so as to dazzle of distract the pilot of an aircraft. This law was introduced in January 2010 in response to the problem.
Offenders can still also be charged under the more general offence of recklessly endangering an aircraft (Article 137 of the Air Navigation Order).
Article written by Wales Air Forum with information by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)