Flights around Stansted Airport targeted by lasers 45 times last year

Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport - Credit: Archant

Aircraft pilots were targeted with lasers around Stansted Airport 45 times last year.

Data from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) show flights were subjected to laser attacks on average once a week.

The figures follow a Freedom of Information request.

Statistics from the CAA show Stansted Airport recorded 39 such attacks, the second lowest of any UK airport. Heathrow recorded 168.

However official reports which include flight zones further afield from the airport in Essex bring the total up to 45, though these do not cover other airspace in the county.

It is not known whether the incidents were accidental or deliberate efforts to blind pilots during a critical phase in the flight, though some of the cases have been logged by pilots as “persistent”.

They stretched throughout the year, with the first of 2014 recorded on January 4 and the last on December 20.

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A spokesmann for the CAA said: “Shining a laser at an aircraft in flight is a serious risk to the safety of passengers and crew, as well as people living close to airports.

“During critical phases of flight, such as take-off and landing, pilots need to employ maximum concentration.

“Being dazzled and temporarily blinded by an intense light could potentially lead to flight crew losing control of the aircraft.

“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is now a specific criminal offence and the police are becoming very good at catching the perpetrators.

“We strongly urge anyone who observes a laser being used at night in the vicinity of an airport to contact the police immediately.”

An Essex Police spokesman added: “Shining lasers at aircraft pilots is extremely dangerous and could cause long-lasting personal injury as well as having catastrophic results.

“We, like other police forces, will prosecute anyone, regardless of age, who chooses to endanger peoples’ lives.

“We will not tolerate our officers or other pilots being subjected to such criminal behaviour.”

There were 1,442 laser attacks reported in the UK in 2014, while UK flight operators reported a further incidents 312 overseas.