Laser attacks menace low-flying planes

In 2014 over 300 laser attacks on planes and helicopters were reported. The attacks put aircraft at risk at the most vulnerable points in a flight - take-off and landing.

Laser attacks menace low-flying planes
An aircraft landing at Frankfurt airport. Photo: DPA

The German Federal Aviation Administration (LBA) reports that ever increasing numbers of commercial flights are being put at risk by people shining lasers into the cockpits of planes during take-off and landing, risking blinding the pilots at critical moments.

Pilots are obliged to report all such incidents to the LBA as soon as they occur. The numbers show a worrying year-on-year increase in incidents of this nature.

The attacks are most prevalent in the densely populated Ruhr region, which is home to the major airports of Cologne and Düsseldorf.

In North Rhine-Westphalia 50 laser attacks were reported in 2014, up from 36 the year before.

While such attacks are most prevalent when planes are manoeuvring at a low altitude, 14 incidents have been reported Germany-wide against planes flying at cruising height, including one carrying Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2013.

Laser attacks have also become an increasing issue for police helicopters in recent years. In Bavaria, pilots have taken to wearing protective glasses during take-off and landing.

The incidents might be seen as harmless fun by those who carry them out, but can be potentially dangerous, reports the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

The laser only needs to remain pointed at the eye for a quarter of a second to cause serious damage to the retina.

German law already takes such incidents extremely seriously, with perpetrators facing fines of up to €50,000.

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