Under certain conditions, laser light directed at aircraft can be a hazard. The most likely scenario is when a bright visible laser light causes distraction or temporary flash blindness to a pilot, during a critical phase of flight such as landing or takeoff.
Last year, a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to New York JFK Airport was forced to turn back when a laser beam was shone into the cockpit. The incident led BALPA to call for lasers to be classified as offensive weapons.
Kevan Jones, Member of Parliament for North Durham, asked:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many reported incidents of lasers attacks on military aircraft operating in UK airspace have been recorded by his Department in each of the last five years.”
Mark Lancaster, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, said:
“The number of laser related Defence Air Safety Occurrence Reports received involving UK military aircraft operating in UK airspace for each of the last five years is given below.”
Under current legislation, someone found guilty of shining a laser pen at an aircraft faces a maximum fine of just £2,500. The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill – which makes it a specific offence to shine a laser into the eyes of a driver or pilot – is still to be passed.