UK pilot’s eye damaged by laser shone into cockpit

A British Airways flight landing at Heathrow Airport. Picture: Wiki Commons
A British Airways flight landing at Heathrow Airport. Picture: Wiki Commons
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A PILOT for British Airways has been left with significant damage to his vision after a ‘military-strength’ laser was reportedly shone into the cockpit of his plane as it landed at Heathrow Airport.

The pilot was left with a burned retina in one eye, and has not worked since the incident, according to the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa).

The unidentified pilot, who was in the co-pilot’s seat of the aricraft, was treated for eye injuries at hospital, according to Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan.

Pilots’ union Balpa claimsthat one in two pilots has been in a plane targeted with lasers over the past year alone.

The incident, which took place in Spring, is currently being probed by British Airways.

A spokesperson said: “The safety of our crew and our customers is always our main concern. We urge our pilots to report such incidents so we can make the authorities aware.”

Mr McAuslan added that the incident showed the dangers that pilots face from lasers, which are easily obtainable online.

He said that one tenement block in Glasgow was now referred to as ‘laser block’ by both pilots and police, due to the number of planes targeted with lasers shone from the building while landing at Glasgow Airport.

Mr McAuslan said that while the lasers used by children in less severe incidents lacked the power to cause serious physical harm, a number of weapon-grade lasers were becoming available on the black market.

Mr McAuslan said: “We’re very concerned about it.

“When something as strong as this comes on the scene it starts to worry us.

“[The pilot’s] retina was burnt on one of his eyes.”

Mr McAuslan added that “people have assumed (the laser) must have been military strength” because the damage was much more severe than that caused by common laser pens.

According to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) figures, there have been on average four or five laser incidents in the UK each day over the last four years.

And Mr McAuslan warned that pilots could be distracted by laser beams shone into the cockpit, revealing that half of all Balpa members reported being targeted by lasers in such incidents.

Mr McAuslan continued: “It’s a critical point in flight, you have to have complete concentration. When it comes into the flight deck, [the laser beam] bounces around the walls of the cockpit.”

A Balpa spokesperson confirmed that the body was aware of concern surrounding relatively easy access to lasers.

The spokesperson added: “Lasers are one of the growing threats to flight safety faced by pilots along with fatigue, weakening regulation and security.”

More than 400 laser incidents were reported in the UK alone in the first half of 2015 according to the CAA.

Flights landing at Heathrow experienced 48 attacks in the first six months of the year. Some 168 were recorded in 2014.