Teenagers arrested after laser reportedly shone at police helicopter and plane landing at Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport.

Stansted Airport. - Credit: Archant

Two teenagers were arrested in the early hours of this morning (June 20) after a laser was shone at a plane landing at Stansted Airport and a police helicopter as it flew over Braintree.

NPAS (National Police Air Service) Wattisham tweeted that its helicopter was “attacked” with a laser at 12.50am today.

Essex Police arrested a 19-year-old man from Chelmsford and a 19-year-old man from Braintree in Codham Park Lane on suspicion of shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot.

A spokeswoman from Essex Police said that both men admitted the offence in custody and were issued with a caution, and added that the laser was also reportedly shone at a commercial airliner flying in to Stansted Airport.

Last year David Taylor, NPAS head of safety and compliance, said laser attacks on planes and helicopters in England and Wales had almost doubled in five years.

And in February of this year Ollie Dismore, director of operations for NPAS, said the increasing number of laser attacks on aircraft worldwide was a “source of serious concern to the aviation industry”.

“In an attack, a laser pointer is deliberately or recklessly shone at airborne aircraft, sometimes persistently over a period of minutes,” he said. “The impact on a pilot is at the very least distracting, but can be serious enough to cause temporary ‘flash’ blindness and in some cases lasting eye damage.”

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He said the frequency of these attacks in the UK alone was increasing at a “worrying rate”, with around 1,800 laser strikes on aircraft in 2015 officially reported to the Civil Aviation Authority.

“What may seem harmless fun to the culprit could potentially have devastating consequences for the crew and passengers in the aircraft as well as innocent members of public on the ground,” he said. “In serious cases, using a laser pointer in this way can carry a prison sentence.”

NPAS has been working to reduce the number of flight crews falling victim to the attacks, with NPAS crews wearing trial eyewear to protect them from lasers.

Mr Dismore said he hoped this would help “protect our staff against this threat in future”.