A JUDGE yesterday called for Parliament urgently to reconsider increasing maximum sentences for air rage after he jailed a Dundee man for two years for attacking and headbutting passengers during a flight from the US to London.

Judge Anthony Thorpe said the current maximum sentence of two years for air rage offenders, as laid down by the Air Navigation Order, was not an ''appropriate deterrent''. Under the order offences allegedly committed in the air aboard a British-registered aircraft fall within the jurisdiction of British police to investigate.

BA and Airtours - which were recently involved in high-profile air rage incidents - added their backing to demands for stiffer action against air rage offenders following the latest case.

Chichester Crown Court yesterday heard that an air hostess had to stand ''spread-eagled'' against an aircraft door to stop Kevin McGuggon, 32, from Dundee, kicking it open at 33,000ft during a drunken rampage.

Second officer John Nelson had to leave his seat on the flight deck while attempting to land the Gatwick-bound Continental Airlines DC10 from Newark, to help restrain McGuggon, who was described as ''out of control''.

The court heard that passengers, including mothers and children, were clearly terrified when McGuggon kicked the rear aircraft door about eight times in a determined attempt to open it.

McGuggon had begun annoying other travellers by flicking food and small pieces of rolled up paper at them about an hour before the plane was due to land.

Passengers said he became drunk after returning from the galley with a number of small bottles of alcohol and began harassing a male flight attendant.

As the plane was preparing to land in London, McGuggon sat on the floor of the galley and refused to move. The second officer had his hat and glasses snatched off, causing a cut to his left eye, during attempts to pacify him.

After finally being persuaded to return to his seat, McGuggon leapt out and ran to the rear of the galley and lashed out at the rear door.

His rampage ended only after a passenger rugby tackled him as he continued to kick out, the court in West Sussex was told.

McGuggon, who was new to flying, was sentenced to two years on a count of affray and given a further 18 months to run concurrently for acting in a manner likely to endanger the aircraft. No penalties were given for four separate convictions of common assault. Two years, and/or a maximum fine of #5000, is the maximum sentence for any breach of the Air Navigation Order.

There are moves at present by the Department of Transport to alter the terms of the legislation to extend the maximum sentence from two to five years for air rage incidents.

Delivering sentence yesterday on McGuggon, Judge Thorpe said: ''These cases are coming through the court with very worrying frequency and, in my judgment, the sentencing powers of the Crown Court need urgent reconsideration by Parliament, given the short maximum sentence currently allowed when what is called for are appropriate deterrent sentences.

''The travelling public expects, quite rightly, that the court will protect them from this sort of dangerous behaviour, and the courts can only do so by passing appropriate sentences to make it clear that such offences will not be tolerated.''

The judge also ordered that four passengers and four crew should each be given #200 from public funds by ''acting so bravely in trying to restrain McGuggon''.

A BA spokesman said: ''In line with the rest of the airline industry, we are concerned about the increasing incidences of air rage and would welcome changes in the current legislation which would lead to greater sentencing powers.''

An Airtours spokeswoman said: ''There is a joint airline industry and police panel considering the increasing incidences of air rage at present. We await the outcome of the panel's findings with interest.''