The dangers posed by pointing laser pens at aircraft are being highlighted in secondary schools in South and East Antrim and North Belfast.
‘Laser Lunacy’ sets out what happens in the cockpit of an aircraft when a laser light is directed at crew from the ground.
The campaign is the initiative of Belfast International Airport, supported by Arts & Business. The performances are delivered in assembly halls by theatre company, Kabosh. Over 2,000 pupils in six schools will get to see the specially commissioned twenty-minute drama.
In total, fifteen shows are being performed with the two actors performing multiple roles.
The awareness campaign followed thirty-five laser pen attacks on arriving and departing aircraft last year. So far this year, the number stands at sixteen attacks.
‘Laser Lunacy’ had its first showing before two hundred pupils at Crumlin Integrated College. The five other schools participating in the campaign are Belfast High School, Belfast Boys’ Model School, Hazelwood Integrated College, Parkhall Integrated College and Abbey Community College.
Crumlin Integrated College Senior Leader, Mrs Linda McGarry, said: “This was a wonderful performance, which was thought provoking and of great educational value to staff and pupils.
“The question and answer session at the end reinforced the message and outlined the consequences of this dangerous activity.”
A Year 10 pupil at Crumlin Integrated offered this view: “I thought that the performance was awesome. I learned that laser pens are not harmless toys but are in fact very powerful, dangerous and illegal to play with.”
Belfast International Airport Human Resources Manager, Jaclyn Coulter, said the response from schools was heartening.
Ms Coulter said: “We have a very serious message to get across to young people and we thought that the most effective way of doing that was through drama. Kabosh devised the format which didn’t hold back on the dire consequences of shining a laser pen into a cockpit.
“In the drama, one crew member is blinded and the aircraft has to crash land, injuring seventeen people. The fallout involves a Police investigation and, in the follow-up discussion, the young people are told of the serious criminal charges they could face and what effect a Court conviction would have on their future travel and job prospects.
“’Laser Lunacy’ is a drama with edge and we are delighted with the response we have had both from schools and pupils. We want this practice to be stamped out. It is not fun. It is not a game. At the end of ‘Laser Lunacy’, we will have reached 2,000 pupils and we hope that they will tell others that directing a laser light at an aircraft can have dreadful and appalling consequences.”
Following the initial performance, Zoe Fox, Kabosh General Manager said, “Theatre is a great way to get a message across to children through creating and animating characters they can relate to. The play is short and the kids find it hilarious at times and then shocking when the protagonist is faced with the consequences of his actions.”