East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) is warning of the dangers of shining lasers at aircraft following incidents of a laser being pointed at the charity’s helicopter while in flight.
EAAA crew captured video footage of a laser being pointed at their aircraft while attending a medical emergency near Attleborough, just outside of Norwich, at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2023. The footage has prompted an urgent response from the life-saving charity to highlight the dangers of shining lasers at aircraft, and an appeal from Norfolk Police for information to help identify those responsible.
The charity, which provides 24/7 life-saving critical care to Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and Bedfordshire, is reminding people that it is an offence to shine a light at an aircraft in flight.
Captain Seb Powderham, from EAAA’s aviation partner, Babcock International Group, said: “Lasers directed at aircraft can significantly impact flight operations. Most importantly, if a laser were to incapacitate the pilot’s ability to operate due to impaired vision, flight safety would be compromised. Short-term effects include temporary flash blindness and potential distraction at a critical stage of flight. Long-term effects could include permanent damage to the eye.”
“Pilots may be required to maneuver the aircraft to protect the crew from the source of the laser, adjust cockpit lighting to minimize the damaging effects of the laser, update planned landing options or abandon the mission altogether. All of which ultimately impact safety and distract from the operational tasking.”
This could mean a delay to those experiencing life-threatening medical emergencies receiving urgent out-of-hospital critical care that EAAA pilots and clinicians bring directly to the scene, ultimately putting lives at risk.
Incidents involving lasers directed at aircraft are not isolated to the eastern region; they have been known to affect aircraft, including air ambulances, up and down the country. Norfolk Police have received seven reports, all in the Attleborough area, since 2021 and are appealing for information about this latest occurrence, which is the first time it’s been caught on video by EAAA. The footage has been released in the hope of identifying those responsible.
PC Dion Phillips, the Attleborough beat manager, said: “All the reported incidents happen overnight, often in the early hours of the morning. We’ve looked into every incident, and haven’t been able to identify the person responsible, which is why we’re appealing to the local community and people living in Attleborough to share any information with us. We think the person responsible is probably in the town center at the time.”
EAAA pilots have reported other incidences of lasers during the charity’s nighttime operations across the region. The charity has been flying 24/7 for two and a half years and has been significantly busier at night with a 17 percent increase in callouts (924 to 1084) in 2022-23.
Powderham said: “We hope by releasing the footage we can not only support Norfolk Police in identifying those responsible for this particular incident but can further highlight the risks of shining lasers at any aircraft.”
Anyone with any information, doorbell footage or CCTV that may capture the laser in action, is asked to contact police via the following channels:
- Report online: https://www.norfolk.police.uk/tell-us
- Email: SNTAttleborough@norfolk.police.uk,
- Phone: 101
- Crimestoppers: Contact the independent charity Crimestoppers 100 percent anonymously on 0800 555 111, or via their online form: www.crimestoppers-uk.org
This press release was prepared and distributed by East Anglian Air Ambulance.