Pilots union demands lasers be classified as 'offensive weapons'

Pilots union demands lasers be classified as 'offensive weapons'

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The pilots union Balpa has called for lasers to be classified as offensive weapons after a Virgin Atlantic flight was forced to return to Heathrow after an attack.

The union has reported that aircraft are being attacked at an “alarming rate” and that lasers of increasing strength are being used.

Jim McAuslan, the general secretary of Balpa, told the Times that classifying lasers as offensive weapons would give the police more powers of arrest.

A law was passed in 2010 outlawing the shining of lights into an aircraft to dazzle or distract pilots, but there have been very few prosecutions.

“Modern lasers have the power to blind, and certainly to act as a huge distraction and to dazzle the pilots during critical phases of flight,” said McAuslan.

“It is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Shining a laser at an aircraft puts that aircraft, its crew and all the passengers on board at completely unnecessary risk.”

On Sunday a Virgin Atlantic flight to New York turned back as a precaution after one of its pilots reported a medical issue caused by a laser attack shortly after take-off.

The CAA says there have been 9,000 laser dazzling incidents since January 2009, involving passenger and military jets, police helicopters and air ambulances.

Heathrow airport topped the list of airports where attacks have been reported with 48, followed by Birmingham (32), Leeds Bradford (24) and Manchester (23).

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