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Blinding laser attacks on airline pilots surge

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Blinding laser attacks on airline pilots surge
Photo: DPA
10:19 CEST+02:00
Dangerous blinding attacks with high-powered lasers on aeroplane and helicopter pilots in Germany have risen dramatically in recent months, according government figures released Monday.

From January to the middle of September, there were 229 laser attacks on planes and helicopters, the Federal Agency of Aviation (LBA) has announced – a massive rise on the 35 reported for the whole of last year.

The high-powered lasers put the lives of the pilots as well as airline passengers and people on the ground at risk, aviation experts say, prompting calls for the devices to be treated as weapons.

At Düsseldorf Airport alone there were 15 such attacks in the first nine months of this year.

The number of cases has particularly spiked in the autumn, with its greater hours of darkness per day.

Air traffic controllers were powerless to do anything about the attacks, said Ute Otterbein, spokeswoman for the DFS air traffic authority.

“We can't do anything about it, except pass on the information as quickly as possible,” she said.

Jörg Handwerg, spokesman for the pilots‘ association, Cockpit, said the reason for the dramatic spike in attacks was simple: “These dangerous, high-powered laser pointers are ever more common because they have become cheaper.”

Although sales of the high-powered versions of the device are actually banned in Germany, they can still be easily bought on the internet.

Yet many people still did not appreciate how dangerous the devices were, Otterbein said.

“They regard it simply as a stupid kids' prank to blind someone with it,” she said.

Yet the attacks could have potentially catastrophic consequences.

Handwerg added: “They can burn a hole in CDs or take away someone's eyesight from hundreds of metres' distance.”

He said that the lasers should be regarded as weapons and regulated with corresponding strictness.

Car drivers have also complained of laser blinding attacks.

DAPD/The Local/dw

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