THOUSANDS of airline passengers' lives are being put in danger after a 500% rise in thugs using laser pens to dazzle pilots.

Incidents of beams directed into cockpits as planes come in to land at Glasgow Airport have soared to record levels, the Evening Times can reveal.

Almost 300 incidents were reported at the city airport in the past five years.

More than 50,000 passengers were on board the flights targeted by laser pens, which hugely increases the risk of a crash.

Firing a strong light at pilots can temporarily blind them and can affect them for several minutes afterwards, potentially causing them to lose control of the aircraft.

In 2013, there were 88 incidents recorded, according to statistics released to the Evening Times under Freedom of Information legislation. Four years ago there were just 14 reports at Glasgow Airport.

Many of the attacks in Glasgow are thought to have come from multi-storey flats in Knightswood and Drumchapel.

Police today warned laser-pen menaces who put lives at risk will be caught. Anyone considering flashing a laser pen in the direction of any aircraft faces being locked up.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said:"Shining laser pens at any vehicle, is incredibly dangerous and totally unacceptable.

"Doing this could cause a serious accident and cost people their lives.

"In working with the Civil Aviation Authority, we have improved our recording methods for this sort of crime and are actively targeting those responsible.

"Our message is clear: use them inappropriately and you will be arrested."

In 2010, there were 26 "laser-pen incidents" recorded at Glasgow Airport.

That increased to 44 in 2011, and 91 incidents in 2012.

Previously, the Evening Times told how a green laser light was aimed at an aircraft on its final approach to Glasgow Airport.

The Loganair flight was on its way to Glasgow from Islay when the potentially-blinding light was suddenly aimed into the plane.

Last year, thugs shone a potentially blinding light into the chartered flight as it was returning to Glasgow Airport.

It is understood the flight was targeted at about 8.30pm on February 5.

The crew became aware of the laser beam shining into the aircraft as it was flying over the Ardrossan and Saltcoats area.

n Anyone with concerns or information about laser-pen incidents can contact police on 101.