People found carrying powerful laser pointers should be arrested even if they are not using them, the head of the UK's aviation regulator has said.
Andrew Haines, chief executive Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), claimed new legislation is urgently needed to cut the increasing number of laser attacks on aircraft.
Mr Haines says the misuse of lasers is a far tougher issue to solve than near misses involving drones because the use of laser devices are “a deliberate attempt to cause harm”.
Under the existing Air Navigation Order 2009, it is an offence to act in a manner “likely to endanger an aircraft”.
Mr Haines expressed his frustration at the difficulty in prosecuting people under this law because of the requirement to “find the person undertaking the task and... demonstrate intent”.
Julian Bray Aviation Security expert comments: I've been campaigning against the street possession of lasers and near airports for several years now. It is good to see the CAA raise the temperature of this debate, but more needs to be done, and quickly.
There is a defence that if the person is engaged in astronomy, that may constitute a legitimate use of a laser, however lasers are highly dangerous and I welcome the CAA's now much tougher stance.
The new breed of military grade green laser beams are particularly dangerous to pilots and aircraft, as the beam will bounce off any glass surface and effectively creates a 'laser cats cradle' inside the cockpit, meaning that wherever the pilot looks, some eye contact with the beam is likely.
There is also a lesser offence of shining a light at an aircraft, but the CAA boss called for the law to be toughened so anyone found carrying a laser pointer can be arrested.
In an interview with Press Association, Mr Haines said: “We and Balpa, the pilots' trade union, are very keen that the Government introduces legislation which means that the mere possession of these high-powered lasers by individuals not licensed for them would be a criminal offence.
“Why does Joe Bloggs walking down the street need a laser that can pop a balloon at 50 miles, that can cause permanent damage to a pilot?”
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