The UK Government has issued an amended bill that bans the shining of laser lights at facilities providing air traffic services, inside aircraft, as well as in other vehicles.
Tabled by Aviation Minister Baroness Liz Sugg, the amendments to the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) bill propose tougher penalties for offenders who misuse laser lights at air traffic control facilities.
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) and the UK’s main air navigation service provider NATS have welcomed the bill.
NATS safety director Dr David Harrison said: “Providing a safe environment for our air traffic controllers at airports to perform their duties is a priority for NATS.
“Working with the AOA, NATS is pleased to have persuaded the government to make it an offence to shine lasers at air traffic control towers.
“Air traffic controllers are a vital component of aviation safety and they deserve to be protected by the law to carry out their duties, so this is an important step forward.”
A person will commit an offence if a laser beam is directed towards an air traffic facility, or towards a person providing air traffic services.
The amendment also bars the use of laser beams if it dazzles or distracts, or is likely to dazzle or distract, a person providing air traffic services.
Violations will attract 12 months of imprisonment or monetary penalty, or both.
AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: “In the past five years, we have seen 13 incidents of lasers being shone at air traffic control towers at airports across the UK.
“While small in number, these incidents could have serious consequences.
“These amendments show that working with NATS, the AOA has persuaded the government to recognise the vitally important role air traffic controllers play in ensuring aviation safety.”