Laser beams attacks on aircraft

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© David Wingate Shutterstock
Runway at Gibraltar Airport

HM GOVERNMENT of Gibraltar has announced that there has been a significant and worrying increase in the number of pilots reporting hand-held lasers being pointed at their aircraft at night while they are in the late stages of the approach to land at Gibraltar Airport.

Sporadic laser attacks on aircraft approaching the airport started some years ago when laser pointers became readily available, but in the last month a number of reports have been received regarding an individual shining a laser at aircraft from the Northern Defences ‘Jungle’ area.

The latest attack, which occurred at night when the aircraft was less than a mile from touchdown

and flying at approximately 300 feet, is particularly worrying as the pilot would have been severely distracted while trying to land the aircraft.

The attack would certainly have made the task of landing at the airport much harder than it already is and could have resulted in the pilot having difficulty seeing his instruments. In severe cases, pilots have reported longer term effects of such laser attacks which include retinal ‘after images’ or even short-lived ‘flash’ blindness leading to concern that the eye has been permanently damaged.

These attacks, which might be considered by the perpetrator to be ‘harmless fun’, are extremely dangerous and under the terms of the Civil Aviation (Air Navigation) Regulations 2009 are punishable on conviction by a fine of up to £10,000 and a jail sentence of up to 5 years.

All pilot reports of lasers being shone at their aircraft are forwarded to the Royal Gibraltar Police for investigation and the police are actively investigating the latest attacks to try to identify the individual responsible.

Chris Purkiss, the Director of Civil Aviation, said “While the individual shining the laser at the aircraft may not appreciate the danger of their activity, he or she is putting in danger the lives of the crew and passengers on-board the aircraft. It is extremely important that we stop this activity happening as soon as possible. If anyone has any information on who is shining the laser at the aircraft, please could they contact the Royal Gibraltar Police.”

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