As many as four pilots a day are at risk of being dazzled or blinded on the approach to UK airports by people on the ground using powerful lasers to shine at aircraft cockpits.
More than 1,400 laser incidents were reported to the Civil Aviation Authority last year – up by 3.5% in 12 months.
This was the first annual increase in attacks in three years. A laser shone into a pilot’s eyes on approach to an airport could bring down an aircraft, the CAA warned.
Heathrow had the most incidents, followed by Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, Gatwick and Glasgow, the Times reported.
A further 312 attacks involved British aircraft landing at or taking off from airports overseas, figures show.
“An aircraft on final approach at 1,000ft has around one minute before it reaches the threshold of the runway and touches down,” the regulator said.
“A pilot dazzled by a laser can be blinded for up to ten seconds followed by over a minute of impaired vision. The risks to passengers and crew are all too obvious.”
CAA guidance suggests that any pilot in a laser incident should see a specialist aeromedical doctor before flying again.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association said that the strength of laser pens had increased in recent years, posing additional risks to pilots. It wants mandatory prison terms for all offenders.
The sale of powerful lasers is restricted in Britain but they can be bought online.
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