Pilots call for action over 'laser blinding' at Heathrow

Pilots call for action over 'laser blinding' at Heathrow

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) have called for action to tackle the growing problem of powerful lasers being directed at aircraft.

According to London24.com, Heathrow Airport is a 'hotspot' but Manchester, Glasgow and Liverpool airports are also frequently targeted. More than 1,500 incidents took place last year, compared to just three in 2004.

These incidents involve lasers being shone into the cockpit, often from as far as kilometre away. Typically, this occurs during take-off or landing, and causes a "blinding flash" which can last for minutes.

Pilots warn that the practice is playing "Russian roulette" with the lives of passengers, and are now calling for prison sentences for offenders.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: "We want regulations over the sale of high powered lasers strengthened, more prosecutions and action taken through trading standards. Lasers can be bought easily and cheaply. The government should convene a cross-agency summit to discuses how to tackle this problem."

The Guardian reports that there were 153 incidents at Heathrow in 2011. The second most affected airport was Manchester with 148 incidents, Birmingham had 143 and Glasgow 107. Liverpool's John Lennon Airport had 90.

Since 2010, shining a laser or light an aircraft has been a specific criminal offence. A Civil Aviation Association (CAA) spokesman told The Guardian: "We are currently seeing a global surge in incidents of lasers being deliberately shone at aircraft on final approach to airports.

"The aviation industry and the police are doing everything possible to combat the problem and we strongly urge anyone who sees a laser being shone in the night sky near an airport to contact the police immediately."

Click on the image below to see travellers' best (and worst) UK airports...

UK's best (and worst) airports
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Pilots call for action over 'laser blinding' at Heathrow

The worst airport in the UK is Aberdeen Airport according to British travellers. The airport, which handles more than three million passengers per year, was given the thumbs down for its facilities including its baggage carousel area, which passengers said is in need of updating.

Luton Airport is in at number 14 and is the least favourite London airport for UK travellers. It's the fifth busiest UK airport and serves as a base for airlines such as easyJet, Monarch and Thomson Airways. One passenger wrote on airline review website Skytrax: "As a frequent flyer all I can say is how embarrassing this airport is as a gateway to our country."

London City Airport is small compared to the capital's four other international airports and is mainly used by business travellers. Passengers said the airport has "expensive parking," although it does offer free WiFi for all. The airport is busiest during the winter months when most airlines fly to top ski destinations.

London Stansted Airport is not the most favoured UK airport by British travellers and was blasted for its "extremely long queues at check-in". The airport located in Essex is the largest base for budget carrier Ryanair, with over 100 destinations served by the airline. In 2012, it was named the fourth busiest airline in the UK after Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.

Formerly known as Aldergrove Airport, Belfast International Airport lies near the village of Aldergrove in Northern Ireland. It's the busiest airport in Northern Ireland and is the second busiest on the island of Ireland, after Dublin Airport. Malaga, Faro and Alicante are the most popular international routes to and from Belfast International Airport, while Liverpool, Gatwick and Stansted are the busiest domestic routes.

Bristol Airport in North Somerset handles over 5.9 million passengers a year, with Amsterdam, Dublin and Edinburgh the most popular flight routes. It has one of the shortest international airport runways in the country at just 2,011 metres in length, which means large planes are rarely, preventing most long-distance flights.

Located in North West Leicestershire, East Midlands Airport serves the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and South Yorkshire. The airport has established itself as a hub for low-cost carriers, like Jet2.com, Ryanair and Monarch.

Edinburgh Airport is Scotland's busiest airport and its upgraded terminal building features new car parking facilities and a larger arrivals hall. There are plans for expansion at the airport, with passenger numbers expected to reach a whopping 26 million per year by 2030.

In at number seven is Glasgow Airport, which is located six miles west of the city centre and is Scotland's second busiest airport and the eighth busiest in Britain. The airlines with the biggest presence are British Airways and Loganair, and the busiest routes are the Netherlands, the UAE, Spain and Ireland.

Named after a famous Beatle, Liverpool John Lennon Airport picked up the sixth spot, connecting travellers to UK and European destinations. Around 4.5 million passengers pass through the airport each year. While there is no train station at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, there are shuttle buses from Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Hunts Cross.

Britain's busiest airport Heathrow was named the fifth best overall, but was voted the easiest airport to get to and from. Although it is served by Heathrow Express, which is one of the most expensive train journeys in the world, it is also served by several low-cost options, such as London Underground, Heathrow Connect and coach services. Travellers said Heathrow has a "great variety of shops and restaurants," such as Gordon Ramsay Plane Food, The Tin Goose and The Five Tuns.

Birmingham Airport was voted the fourth best British airport. Passengers said it is "compact and customer friendly". Birmingham Airport was also named the fourth easiest airport to get to in the UK, after Gatwick, Manchester and Heathrow Airports.

Newcastle Airport was voted by passengers as the easiest airport to travel through. Passengers of the airport commented on its simple layout and good choice of food and drink options, saying it is "easy to navigate and clean".

Britain's second busiest airport, London Gatwick Airport, handles more than 34 million passengers every year and came in second place, with passengers praising its friendly staff and large check-in areas.

Manchester Airport is Britain's best airport, according to UK travellers! The third busiest airport in the UK welcomes more than nine million passengers each year and hit the top spot for the best customer service, facilities and shopping, as well as the best bars and restaurants. Passengers commended it for being well organised, passenger-friendly and for its accessibility.

A new survey has revealed British travellers' favourite UK airports. The poll by Skyscanner asked 1,600 British flyers to rate the UK's airport on customer service, facilities, shopping, bars and restaurants, and ease of travelling through. Skyscanner's Victoria Bailie said the winning airport is one of Britain's busiest but "it still manages to keep passengers happy". Click through the gallery to find out which airport scooped the top spot...


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