Pilots demand action after increase in laser attacks

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The Independent Online

Airline pilots are being temporarily blinded during take-off and landing because of a "dramatic increase" in the number of incidents of laser beams being shot into cockpits, union leaders warned today.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) urged the Government to take action, claiming that passenger lives were being put at risk.

Balpa said the number of incidents across the country had increased from three in 2003 to 29 in 2007 and 206 last year.

General secretary Jim McAuslan called on Transport Secretary Lord Adonis to act before there was a "serious incident."

The union said the laser guns, some no bigger than a ballpoint pen, can cost less than £10 and can be obtained from websites and even from some corner shops.

The beams can reach 37,000 feet and were being targeted at the cockpits of aircraft taking off or landing round Britain's airports, said Balpa.

Mr McAuslan said in a letter to the minister: "Technology to locate the exact origin of a beam has been developed and we hope that such devices are urgently rolled out to police forces across the UK.

"We believe that laser-related incidents pose a sufficient risk to flight safety that co-ordinated action is required across the industry.

"Unfortunately the buying and using these laser guns has become something of a fad. We have to stamp it out before a tragedy occurs."