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Airbase threatened with laser light attack on jets
LIVES and national security could be at risk from disgruntled people living close to one of the region’s major military airbases.
Threats have been made by telephone to dazzle pilots flying in and out of RAF Leeming, near Bedale , North Yorkshire, using laser pointers or high-powered torches.
Police and the RAF believe the threats are coming from people living in the surrounding area – where, in years gone by, noise generated by aircraft was a contentious issue.
The main culprits for that noise – Tornado F3s – have not been stationed at Leeming since 2008, and the station is now quieter than it once was – with complaints halving yearon- year since the fighters left.
However, it still operates Hawk and Tutor aircraft carrying out support roles to UK and worldwide air operations.
The base also hosts a variety of other exercises throughout the year, often for aircrews conducting essential predeployment training for duties in Afghanistan and other operational theatres.
The station’s flight safety officer, Squadron Leader Paul Richley, said the threats were extremely worrying.
“Flying activity from RAF Leeming is essential to UK security,”
he said. “Wherever possible, we do our utmost to reduce the impact of flying activity on the local community.”
Article 222 of the Air Navigation Order 2009 states that it is a criminal offence to use a light in such a way that would dazzle or distract a pilot.
Sqn Ldr Richley said: “A pilot’s workload when making an approach to land requires a lot of concentration, especially at night, and anything that would affect that concentration could put them and the aircraft at unnecessary risk.
“Also, the risk of damage to the eyesight of a pilot from these actions is very high.”
He added: “If residents around the base have a concern, we welcome the opportunity to talk through their issues, rather than resort to actions that could cause an aircraft accident and also result in criminal charges.”
Sergeant Jerry Perrin, of Bedale police, said officers were working with the military to trace the threats – and would deal with those responsible robustly.
He added: “Should anyone actually shine a torch or laser pointer at an aeroplane and cause it to crash, the aftermath is unthinkable.”