Sussex Police are warning of the dangers of lasers being pointed at aircraft, after two incidents in the Crowborough area in recent days.
On Saturday the pilot of a helicopter being flown at 6,000 feet above the town reported to air traffic control that it had been targeted by a laser at around 11pm. The laser was traced to the London Road area, but no offender was identified.
Acting Sergeant Jim Smith from Crowborough Police said:
Directing laser devices towards aircraft in flight to dazzle or distract the pilot is a criminal offence as it represents a considerable threat to the lives of the people on board and on the ground.
The police service has brought a number of successful prosecutions to court which have resulted in significant sanctions for the offender, including jail terms.
These are not toys and we would appeal to parents to be aware of the dangers lasers pose and discourage their children from using them.
Police helicopters can now accurately locate a laser shone at them to individual houses and last month a 36-year-old man from Southwick was charged with shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. He has been released on bail to appear at Worthing Magistrates’ Court on 1 April.
Report of someone shining a laser at a helicopter over #Crowborough. Endangering an aircraft is exceptionally dangerous and very serious
— PC Jim Smith (@Constable_Smith) March 16, 2014
The Civil Aviation Authority says aircraft are most vulnerable on final approach into a airport such as Gatwick. A laser beam can refract through tiny abrasions on the exterior of the cockpit windscreen and thereby illuminate the entire flight deck. A pilot dazzled by a laser can be blinded for up to 10 seconds followed by over a minute of impaired vision. The CAA say the risks to passengers and crew are all too obvious.
Watch this video, produced for the U.S. Air Force and the US Federal Aviation Administration, to see how dangerous it is for pilots when people point lasers at airplanes or helicopters.
In 2012 there were over 1,500 incidents in the UK. To tackle the problem a new law was introduced in 2010, now an individual caught shinning a laser at an aircraft can now be charged with the specific offence of targeting an aircraft in flight with a laser or light.