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Police fail to check laser beams being flashed at aircraft

Updated September 14, 2017

RAWALPINDI: Repeated incidents of laser beams being flashed at passenger aircraft taking off from and landing at Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) have caused concern among pilots and aviation authorities, while the police have not been able to control the problem.

Pilots have reported several such incidents to air traffic control over the last several months, which then alerted the airport manager, police and other concerned agencies.

These alerts have gone unheeded by the police, although the airport manager called them a “serious flight safety hazard” in a communiqué to police and the district managements of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

A senior pilot for Pakistan International Airlines said lasers can disturb pilots if pointed directly into their eyes during landing or takeoff, which are critical stages during which pilots closely monitor aircraft gadgets. A slight distraction caused by a flashing laser could result in catastrophe, he said.

A security official also said this could be dangerous, adding that lasers are also used on guns and nobody can differentiate between aimless pointing and a target-finding laser.

When asked about the measures taken by the police to check individuals involved in pointing lasers at aircrafts, the Rawalpindi police’s chief security officer said: “Whenever such intimation is passed to the police higher ups, they passed such things to all stakeholders for immediate redress.”

An official from one of the concerned police stations, when contacted and asked whether he had received any directive from the regional police officer or the senior superintendent of police (SSP) VVIP security Rawalpindi to take appropriate measures to check the practice, he said: “No such directive has been received so far.”

Airport Manager Amanullah Alvi said in his communiqué to the Rawalpindi commissioner and senior police officers that such incidents have increased recently and need to be checked.

The communiqué was made by the BBIA airport manager during the last week of August. In it, he reported eight laser flashing incidents when passenger aircrafts were flying in the Karal Chowk area, the Expressway area, in the vicinity of the airport, and the Gujar Khan, Mandra, Rawat, Waris Khan and Pirwadhai areas. These incidents were reported by pilots of international and national airlines to air traffic control.

According to airport authorities, all the incidents were reported in a timely fashion to the concerned police station and other law enforcement agencies.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2017