LASER louts who threaten the safety of airplanes and helicopters will be targeted in a new campaign.
The move follows a dramatic increase in the number of incidents in Yorkshire where pilots were distracted by lasers being shone at their cockpits.
Only last year Almondbury man Dean Manby, 24, endangered the safety of a police helicopter and its crew by directing a green laser at it as it flew over Dalton.
Manby’s girlfriend bought the pen for £45 from internet shopping website Ebay as a present for him.
He said he wanted it to use at dance music festivals.
Manby said he had never intended to put the crew at risk, but the prosecution said he was well aware that the light could potentially put the safety of the crew in danger when he repeatedly shone the laser towards the helicopter – at least 600ft off the ground – on the night of January 4.
Manby, was cleared of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft by a jury at Bradford Crown Court, but was sentenced to a 12-month community order and 80 hours community work for negligence.
He could have faced five years in prison if he had been convicted.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) say during 2008 there were 206 cases of individuals shining hand-held lasers at aircraft, five of which were in Yorkshire.
Most were at jets landing at Leeds Bradford Airport.
There had been no incidents at all in Yorkshire during 2007.
Now the CAA, regional police forces and government departments have joined forces to track down those responsible for the attacks.
There have already been a number of successful prosecutions in the UK with some offenders receiving custodial sentences.
The new campaign aims to highlight the penalties offenders could face.
Bob Jones, Head of Flight Operations at the CAA, said: “To those individuals targeting aircraft with laser devices, the message is clear – don’t.
“You will be caught and you will be prosecuted and you could spend up to five years in prison.
“We strongly urge anyone in the local area who sees a laser being used against aircraft to contact the police immediately.
“These things are not toys, they pose a serious risk to all flight safety.”
The CAA said it was encouraging the aviation industry to unite around the problem by reporting incidents to police air support units as soon as they happen.
Concerted action could see culprits detected within minutes.