Leicester

Three jailed for using laser pens at East Midlands Airport

Alex Parker, Craig Appleby and Luke Walters
Image caption Alex Parker, Craig Appleby and Luke Walters admitted endangering three aircraft

Three men who used laser pens to dazzle pilots coming in to land at East Midlands Airport have been jailed.

Alex Parker, 19, Craig Appleby, 20, and 21-year old Luke Walters, all from Loughborough in Leicestershire, admitted endangering three aircraft.

In one case the pilots' vision was so badly affected they covered the cockpit and landed on instruments alone.

Parker was jailed for seven months while Appleby and Walters were given five-month sentences.

The trio were caught red-handed at East Midlands Airport in February last year after pilots of three planes and Air Traffic Control tower staff all reported being dazzled by a green laser.

Pilots of an Atlantic Airlines plane, returning from Switzerland, took the decision to land on instruments alone because of the laser.

Image caption Police demonstrated how blinding a laser pen can be for a pilot

A Monarch flight from Lanzarote and a Swift Air plane from Spain also reported the laser.

Judge Simon Hammonds, in sentencing the trio at Leicester Crown Court, said their actions endangered the lives of passengers and crew and he hoped the jail term would be a deterrent.

He said residents in the area would remember the Kegworth air disaster.

Speaking before he was sentenced on Wednesday, Appleby said he did not realise how dangerous it was.

"Now I know what dangers it can cause, it's horrible," he said.

Image caption The Civil Aviation Authority said there were 70 reports of laser use at East Midlands Airport last year

"I'm very sorry it happened, it will never happen again. I wasn't aware of what we were doing."

Captain Martin Dudley, chief pilot at Monarch Airlines, said: "The real danger is flash blindness. A laser encounter comes unexpectedly and it's extremely bright," he said.

"That flash blindness stays with the pilot for a while."

Parker said he did not shine the laser but admitted owning it. Appleby and Walters admitted using the device.

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