A PRANKSTER targeted a packed passenger plane with a laser pen as it flew over Wearside.
Police said the dangerous prank could have endangered the lives of holidaymakers and crew on board and brought the plane down on to the streets below.
At 9.30pm on Tuesday, Newcastle Airport Air Traffic Control reported that a laser pen had been shone at a 737 flying over Washington.
At the same time, officers got a report that a laser pen was being shone into homes and windows in the Stridingedge area of Washington.
Chief Inspector Graham Watson, of Northumbria Police’s Sunderland Area Command, said: “Often those involved aren’t aware they are not only causing significant danger to the pilot and passengers, they are also committing a criminal offence.
“This is a dangerous offence that could cause a serious incident and put lives at risk.”
Laser pens are readily available to buy online and shops. They can cost as little as £8.
The maximum sentence in the UK for intentionally endangering an aircraft is five years’ in jail.
Earlier this year Stuart Bowering, 31, narrowly avoided jail when he shone a laser pen into the air, temporarily blinding the pilot of a police helicopter.
Pilot Paul Maddox was forced to make an emergency landing at Bristol Airport, nearly causing the diversion of a commercial flight.
Self-employed builder Bowering narrowly escaped jail after admitting the lesser charge of negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft at Bristol Crown Court.
He was given a 12-month community order, a three month curfew and ordered to pay £200 in costs.
In February 2010, a 16-year-old boy was fined £250 after admitting to shining a laser pen, bought on eBay for £8, into the cockpit of an easyJet Belfast flight landing at John Lennon Airport.
The youth then did the same thing to the police helicopter sent to find him.
He was hauled before Liverpool Youth Court where he admitted two charges of recklessly endangering an aircraft.
•A 21-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft on Tuesday. He was questioned by detectives and release on police bail, pending further enquiries.