HUNDREDS of lives are being put at risk by the growing number of cases of people using dazzling laser pens to target planes flying into and out of Southampton Airport.

A Daily Echo investigation can reveal vandals have been shining the powerful rays at planes flying as low as 750ft.

The beams can cause temporarily blindness in pilots just as they carry out crucial manoeuvres above Hampshire.

In 2008 the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recorded two major incidents. In 2009 this climbed to seven – but so far this year there has been double that number already.

Three have taken place in the past week.

On Monday a laser was shone from Netley at a Bombardier DHC8 making its final approach into the airport.

On Sunday two airliners were deliberately targeted while coming into land, one from the Itchen Bridge and another from Totton.

Captain Bob Jones, head of flight operations at the CAA, condemned the incidents as a “serious risk to all flight safety”.

Daily Echo: More in today's Daily Echo