Leeds & West Yorkshire

Police aircraft laser attacks 'highest in Yorkshire'

Media captionThe highest number of laser attacks on police aircraft happened in Yorkshire last year

The number of laser attacks on police aircraft was higher in Yorkshire than in any other part of the UK last year.

Figures from the National Police Air Service (NPAS) show there were 91 attacks on its aircraft in 2015.

Of those, 20 were against helicopters taking off from its Carr Gate headquarters near Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Lasers cause a dazzling light in the cockpit and their high-powered beams can cause serious eye damage.

There are strict legal limits on laser sales in the UK and for general use they must be 1 milliwatt or less.

Image copyright Paul Swift
Image caption The National Police Air Service base at Carr Gate had a fifth of all laser attacks last year

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has previously said people found carrying powerful laser pointers should be arrested and has called for new laws to cut attacks on aircraft.

One pilot who works at the base, James Booth, said: "If it gets in your eyes, you've got potential flash blindness which can then lead to debilitation.

"We are flying these things on our own - we don't have a second person sitting next to us."

Dave Taylor, head of safety for the National Police Air Service, said: "The National Police Air Service is working with colleagues from across the UK aviation sector in order to manage this risk and to reduce the number of flight crews that become victims of these attacks.

"We are currently conducting a laser eyewear protection trial in order to provide our pilots and flight crews with the means to protect themselves against this threat in future."

A spokeswoman for NPAS said all its pilots at Carr Gate had been targeted by lasers at some point.

She said the high figures may be explained because their helicopters fly over densely-populated areas and are called out more often than those in other areas.

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