Air ambulance at risk after laser attack

Magpas helicopter attacked with a laser

The Magpas helicopter which was the target of a laser attack - Credit: Magpas

Huntingdon-based air ambulance charity Magpas has warned that lives were being put at risk after its helicopter twice came under attack from a laser - potentially blinding the pilot.

The distinctive  bright orange-painted helicopter had a full team of clinicians and aircrew on board when it was targeted on November 19 and 26.

The helicopter was returning to its base at RAF Wyton when a laser was pointed at it with "extremely dangerous" possible consequences for those on board and people on the ground.

Now the charity has warned of the hazards in a bid to prevent the incidents happening again and said perpetrators were facing a possible prison sentence.

Captain Chris Sherriff, one of the Magpas Air Ambulance pilots, said: “The effects of the laser depends on what type of laser it is and unless you’re an expert, you’ll rarely know the extent of the damage it can cause.

"From temporary short term loss of vision to serious permanent damage, a laser attack can not only be extremely dangerous in the moment – when multiple lives are in your hands as the pilot – but it can also have a severe long term, debilitating impact too.”

He said: "We obviously hope that no one is doing this maliciously or intending to cause any harm – and you can often see the beam in the sky or it lights up the cockpit first and alerts you to the danger.

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"However, it’s important to remember that what may seem like innocent fun, could have extremely serious consequences for all involved.”

Magpas, which is planning to move its base to a site on the former Alconbury airfield, said that the attacks not only had an impact on the emergency crews but were also a criminal offence under the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act 2018 which now meant offenders face an unlimited fine and even face a jail sentence of up to 5 years for endangering an aircraft.

The charity said that, fortunately, the two occurrences had place when the air ambulance team had been flying back from emergency incidents.

It said: "However, with the charity being called to the most seriously ill and injured patients in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and across the East of England, and already dealing with the additional challenges that providing lifesaving care throughout the winter months bring , it is important to note the detrimental effect such attacks could have on so many people."