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UK ministers consider licensing laser pointers in bid to reduce attacks

Pilots concerned about potential for crashes and loss of life after more than 1,200 laser attacks at UK airports last year.

Sales of laser pointers could be licensed in an attempt to protect pilots and train drivers from attacks that could cause fatal crashes. The devices are more commonly used in meetings and conferences to highlight items in presentations. However, airline pilots are increasingly concerned that pointing laser pointers at planes could cause aircraft to crash. There were 1,258 laser attacks on planes landing or taking off from UK airports last year, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

The inexpensive pointers can also cause eye damage or temporary blindness. Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, said he was concerned about the risk of permanent damage to pilots' and passengers' eyes as the power of lasers increased. The first laser attack on an aircraft was reported in 2004, and since 2011 there have been an average of 1,500 annually in the UK. The number of attacks on aircraft using Heathrow airport rose by a quarter last year, to 151. Attacks at Glasgow almost doubled, to 83, and Birmingham airport reported 73. Seventy two attacks were reported at Manchester, 62 at London City, with 55 at Gatwick. There were 466 incidents against trains between April 2011 and October 2016, according to British Transport Police.

The proposed clampdown comes after two British tourists were threatened with fines for allegedly pointing laser beams at passenger planes arriving in Málaga, in southern Spain. The business minister Margot James, launching an eight-week call for evidence, said she wanted to ensure regulations kept up with the increasing use of the devices. Pilots' union calls for laser pointers to be classed as offensive weapons. "Whilst we know most users don't intend any harm, many are not aware of the safety risks and serious health implications of shining laser pointers directly into people's eyes," she said. A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman welcomed the call for evidence. "Shining a laser at an aircraft in flight could pose a serious safety risk and it is a criminal offence to do so," he said. It is already an offence to endanger aircraft by shining a laser at them, punishable by fines of up to £2,500.

Moves to tighten up the rules and fine or jail those who shine lasers at transportation were dropped from the government's legislative programme after the June general election. Ophthalmologists in the UK have reported more than 150 cases of laser pointer-related eye injuries since 2013, most of them involving children.

Source: The Guardian


Päivitetty/Updated: 13.08.2017

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