Plane stupidity as yobs beam laser pens at landing flights

LASER lights which can blind pilots have been fired into at least nine planes landing at Edinburgh Airport in the space of five months.

Police are hunting those responsible for the attacks, which have led to some pilots having to cover their eyes and others taking evasive action.

On each occasion, a powerful laser pen – which can focus a green beam of light over several miles – has been used.

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Experts say the devices, which can cost more than 100 and are generally used by astronomers and scientists, have become "dangerous toys".

The most recent incident happened on Saturday night when a green laser, thought to have been fired from the Loanhead area, hit a 130-seater BMI Airbus 319 passing over Straiton at 4000ft.

The pilot landed safely but police have warned that if caught, the person responsible will be prosecuted.

Saturday's incident is the latest in a long line of similar reports from pilots entering Edinburgh airspace.

On October 21, a cargo plane from Aberdeen was forced to drop 400ft as it approached the runway to avoid a green beam. An easyJet Airbus carrying 59 passengers and six crew travelling on the same flightpath from Stansted was targeted 30 minutes later.

Both pilots were dazzled by the beam, suffering a temporary loss of vision, and were forced to cover their eyes at a crucial point in the descent.

Two days earlier a Boeing 747 jumbo jet – potentially carrying around 500 people – was also targeted by the blinding lasers.

On September 7, both the pilot and co-pilot of an easyJet flight coming in from Luton with 42 passengers on board reported being dazzled. A second British Airways flight was also targeted on the same day.

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Other planes targeted in recent months include a British Airways BAE 146 and a BAE RJ100, both of which can carry more than 100 passengers.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, which records all aircraft hazards, said the pens had very little practical use for the general public.

He added: "Some of the less powerful pens are used for things like conference pointers, but the more powerful ones capable of reaching an approaching aircraft are of little use to most people other than as a potentially dangerous toy."

Low-powered laser pens under one milliwatt (mW) are considered safe enough for general sale, however, stronger lasers are available, including some used by astronomers or scientists which can be as powerful as 240mW.

The Evening News found one such laser available online for just under 110.

David Reynolds, from pilots' union the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA),

said: "At the moment the pens are more of nuisance for passenger airliners rather than a major air safety hazard as there are generally two pilots."