A new BBC Inside Out programme is due to reveal that nearly 100 cases of laser attacks on the National Police Air Service (NPAS) were recorded in West Yorkshire in the past year – equating to 20 per cent of all such laser strikes.
Programme makers visited the national police helicopter base at Carr Gate, near Wakefield, to find that every single one of the NPAS pilots based at the centre has come under attack from lasers.
Laser strikes can cause a blinding light to flood the cockpit, dazzling the pilot to an extent that can lead to serious long-term eye damage or potentially catastrophic crashes.
It is thought that 24,000 laser devices were imported into the country last year, while some sold online that are advertised as legal are up to 50-times stronger than stated.
Mr Fahd Quhill, ophthalmic consultant at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital, also reported a steep rise in laser-related eye injuries.
Speaking of some of the more serious cases, he said: “They’re no longer going to be able to read, they’re going to have difficulty recognising faces and they will need visual aids in order to help them to read.”
Andrew Haines, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said last month that new legislation is needed to cut the number of laser attacks on aircraft.
Mr Haines believes the misuse of lasers is a tougher issue to solve than near misses involving drones because the former 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”.
Inside Out Yorkshire & Lincolnshire will broadcast on BBC One tonight at 7.30pm.