Edinburgh flight safety under threat from laser attacks

Police on patrol in Drylaw arrested five suspects in September after spotting a green beam shone into the sky from a car in Marine Drive.
Police on patrol in Drylaw arrested five suspects in September after spotting a green beam shone into the sky from a car in Marine Drive.
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PILOTS landing at Edinburgh Airport are being targeted in laser attacks at the rate of nearly one a week, new figures reveal.

The Civil Aviation Authority reported 44 cases of beams aimed at aircraft near the Ingliston runway from the ground last year – down from 55 in 2015.

Police and airport officials condemned perpetrators as posing a threat to passenger safety.

“Shining lasers at aircraft is a very stupid and dangerous thing to do,” said Edinburgh Airport’s Gordon Robertson.

“We are encouraged to see a reduction in the number of incidents of this nature in and around our airspace and we will work with Police Scotland in whatever way we possibly can to assist their inquiries.”

Police on patrol in Drylaw arrested five suspects in September after spotting a green beam shone into the sky from a car in Marine Drive.

Edinburgh Airport officials later told police that a pilot reported seeing the laser during his aeroplane’s descent.

Police launched a probe in March after an airline pilot was targeted by a laser on the approach to Edinburgh Airport.

Officers said the pilot was “distracted” after the device was shone at the passenger plane in an attack lasting ten seconds.

Two months earlier, a similar light was shone at a cockpit from Musselburgh during a plane’s final approach to the airport.

“The use of laser pens to distract or obscure the vision of a pilot is an extremely serious offence, which can have very serious consequences,” said Sgt Sandra Meneghan, of Edinburgh Airport police.

“We regularly patrol roads below approach routes to deter offenders and respond quickly to any notifications from pilots.

“Anyone found committing this offence will be arrested and charged.”

Across the UK, 1258 laser attacks were reported in 2016, down from 1439 the year before, equating to more than three a day on average.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association welcomed the fall in cases but warned such attacks could soon result in a disaster if the “dangerously high” number persists.

“We’re also concerned that under-reporting of incidents could mean that we don’t have a true idea of the scale of the problem,” said Balpa flight safety specialist Steve Landells.

“Shining a laser at aircraft is incredibly dangerous and a real threat to flight safety.

“The power of these devices is increasing and we’re concerned that, if left to escalate without significant intervention, we could see a serious incident happen in the near future.”

Balpa welcomed new legislation to tighten the law on lasers and warned future offenders could face prison.

“We’ve been campaigning for tougher punishments for offenders for many years and so are encouraged by the recognition of this problem,” added Mr Landells.

“The new Vehicle Technology and Aviation bill proposes to increase the powers of the courts to allow them to impose prison sentences on those putting lives at risk by shining a laser at an aircraft.”

andy.shipley@jpress.co.uk