Search and rescue chopper dazzled by laser beam

The RAF Sea King helicopter was searching for a missing man when it had a laser shone at it (Picture by Marcusroos)

A MILITARY helicopter crew were dazzled by a laser pen while on a night-time search and rescue mission.

The RAF pilots made an emergency call to police and reported the location of the attack.

Fife Police swooped on the culprit but are understood to have taken no action after the man claimed it was an innocent mistake.

The incident follows a string of attacks on pilots using laser pens, and growing calls for the authorities to take a zero tolerance approach to those responsible.

The incident happened on Friday night as an RAF search and rescue helicopter helped the search for a man missing from his home in Cowdenbeath, Fife.

The crew of Rescue 131 from RAF Boulmer, Northumberland, were flying their Sea King near Cowdenbeath at about 10pm when green laser light lit up the cockpit.

A source close to the operation said: “Someone shone a laser at the search and rescue helicopter.

“The pilot gave the police the co-ordinates and they went to the address.

“The guy told them he hadn’t been shining it at the helicopter, he had been playing with it in his garden, and so they let the person off.”


 A spokesman for the RAF today confirmed that the incident had happened.

Flight Sergeant Andy Carnall, from RAF search and Rescue Headquarters, said: “The crew from RAF Boulmer was looking for a missing person in the Cowdenbeath area when a green laser was aimed at them.

“They communicated that information to the police and the police went to the address and spoke to the individual.

“This is a civil matter for the police to deal with.”

A spokesman for the British Air Line Pilots’ Association said all laser pen attacks on aircraft should be taken seriously by police and that a jail term should be the norm.

He said: “Pilots can easily be temporarily blinded by laser attacks.

“While there are health implications for him or her, the perpetrators must also think about the hundreds of passengers in the back of the plane, or the person who is being rescued by helicopter.

“Targeting lasers at aircraft is like playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.”

He added: “All laser pen attacks must be taken seriously by the police and custodial sentences must be the norm.”

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said: “It’s difficult to understand the mentality of the people that are doing it.

“The crew could lose control of the aircraft. It’s very dangerous and it’s difficult to understand how the people doing this don’t see that.”

The Boulmer crew had been called out to assist in the search for 50-year-old Andrew Marshall who disappeared from his Cowdenbeath home after taking his dog for a walk.

The postie was last seen at 9am on Friday and police have been appealing to local householders to check their sheds and outbuildings in case Mr Marshall has used them for shelter.

Though Mr Marshall went missing with his white Staffordshire terrier, police believe the dog is no longer with him and have widened their search area following a possible sighting in Dunfermline, six miles away.


In 2009 Glasgow airport suffered 42 incidents of lasers being shone into planes, a figure second only to Manchester.

A passenger plane landing at Edinburgh Airport was targeted in September.

The EasyJet Airbus A319 had a green beam shone at it from the Duddingston Loch area of the city.

Last September a Romanian fruit picker was jailed for four months for shining a laser at a Tornado jet as it came in to land.

Radu Moldovan, 28, focused the beam into the cockpit for up to ten seconds as the crew descended into RAF Leuchars in Fife.

He was caught after the navigator of the Tornado got a fix on the source of the intense light and passed the co-ordinates to police.

After his arrest, Moldovan also tried to claim that he had just been waving the laser around at random.

Aviation experts have claimed that the changes of an air disaster caused by a laser pen are becoming increasingly likely.

Across Europe, the number of reported incidents jumped from 1,048 in 2008 to 4,266 in 2010, according to Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation.

And devices, which cost as little as £15, are becoming ever more powerful, with green beams around 60 more powerful than red ones.

They are capable of causing temporary damage to the retina, temporarily blinding the pilot, from as little as six miles away, with more expensive models capable of up to 85 miles.

The maximum sentence in the UK for intentionally endangering an aircraft is five years’ jail.

A spokesman for Fife Constabulary said: “After a call from the pilot of a search helicopter in the Cowdenbeath area on Friday night, Fife Constabulary attended at an address in the town.”

Earlier today they announced they had recently recovered a body in the Cowdenbeath area.

A spokesman said: “Police in Fife have recovered the body of a man near Cowdenbeath.

“A report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal in Dunfermline in due course.

“There may now be a post-mortem examination and formal identification will need to take place before any further comment will be made by Fife Constabulary.”