The recent drone incidents at Gatwick have prompted me to write again to my MP. I wrote previously concerning threats to aircraft safety from lasers and Flight Path Protection Teams (FPPT) being scrapped as a means of saving money. No mention in the MSM reports on “Gatwick” of FPPT, so could this be another Theresa May bad decision as Home Secretary?


Email exchange with my MP Bill Wiggin:

From: Alan Wheatley  – Sent: 05 December 2015

To: Office of Bill Wiggin MP

Subject: Safety Threat to Planes

Hi Bill,

An article from Reuters, which see below, highlights a worrying development.

But I think the threat is not just from Manpads (see below). BBC Radio 4 within the last week or so had a feature on the danger to pilots eyes from lasers directed into cockpits. An eye surgeon was interviewed who described how this leads to permanent loss of sight, and that it has become a far from rare occurrence.

Apparently the risk is from high powered, hand held lasers that are now freely available to the public to buy – they are not the laser-pointer which we used when, for instance, giving a talk, which are very much less powerful. The surgeon thought that these high power laser should be banned.

In some cases it seems the damage was as a result of kids pointing the lasers into their friends eye or even their own, but pointing lasers at a plane’s cockpit is obviously far more deliberate.

Even if this is not, yet, a terrorist tactic it very easily could become one. So this is another task for the FPPT (see below), and so a cut in their numbers is the wrong thing to be doing at this time. It is VERY much easier for a self-starting terrorist to to get hold of a high power laser than a Manpads, but the results could be equally fatal.

Clearly the last thing I want to do is to make terrorists aware of what they could easily do, so I hope you can have a quiet word in the right quarter. Far better to prevent than pick up the pieces afterwards.

Incidentally, people using lasers, such as in research laboratories, can wear laser protection goggles/glasses, so it may be possible to provide pilots with eye wear to protect them from laser eye damage, irrespective of who is doing the pointing and why.

Best regards, Alan Wheatley

Copied from Reuters

“Specialist British police teams that guard against attacks on planes by militants armed with surface-to-air missiles are at risk of being disbanded because of cost-saving measures, according to sources close to the units.

Global aviation experts have warned that a proliferation of shoulder-launched missiles, known as Manpads (Man Portable Air Defence Systems), poses a serious threat to passenger planes, and the U.S. Department of State has said countering the spread of the weapons is a top national security priority.

Known as Flight Path Protection Teams (FPPT), the British police units were set up in 2008 to find and negate the threat from locations near airports where militants could fire Manpads or similar weaponry at planes as they take off and land.

They also work with local communities to collect intelligence about any suspicious activity.”

On 7 Dec 2015 Office of Bill Wiggin MP wrote:

Dear Alan

Thank you very much for your email.  I will raise your concerns directly with the Secretary of State for Defence and I will come back to you when I have more information.



From: Alan Wheatley –  To: Office of Bill Wiggin MP

Subject: Safety Threat to Planes

Date: 21 December 2018


Hi Bill,

I sent you an email just over four years ago [Ed: See text above].

You replied (see above) that you would raise my concerns with the the Secretary of State for Defence and come back to me. As far as I can tell from my records that never happened.

Four years on, at Gatwick, we have a different implementation of the same threat.

What happened to the Flight Path Protection Teams?

Did the then Home Secretary disband them?

I am even keener than four years ago to know.

Best regards, Alan Wheatley


Print Friendly, PDF & Email