Garda helicopter crew targeted by laser thugs

THE crew of a Garda Air Support Unit helicopter was targeted by thugs with a potentially blinding laser after officers were sent to investigate an incident involving a plane which had taken off from Dublin Airport.

Air traffic controllers at Dublin contacted gardaí after the crew of a Ryanair flight from Dublin to Liverpool reported that a laser was pointed at the cockpit of their aircraft shortly after take-off. Controllers had also received similar reports from other aircraft earlier in the evening.

At around 11.15pm, a Garda helicopter was dispatched from its base at Baldonnel Aerodrome to investigate reports of a laser being pointed at an aircraft near Malahide in north Co Dublin. As the chopper made its way to the scene, it too was targeted with a laser by an individual in the Darndale area. The helicopter crew advised air traffic controllers that a laser had been aimed at their aircraft and that they would attempt to deal with that incident before proceeding to the original report.

The chopper, which is flown by an Air Corps crew, but carries Garda personnel, tried to locate the suspect while unmarked patrol cars converged on the area. The culprit however managed to evade gardaí.

A Garda spokesman confirmed: “Gardaí received a report from air traffic control of an incident involving an aircraft and a laser between the Swords/Malahide area. The Garda Air Support Unit was sent to investigate the reports while ground units were also sent to the area. No arrests were made but gardaí are investigating.”

Last Wednesday night, a Ryanair flight on approach to Shannon Airport was targeted by thugs using a laser. Flight FR109, was at 21,000 feet overhead Clonbollogue in Co Offaly when the crew contacted air traffic controllers to inform them that they had observed a laser being aimed at their aircraft.

The lasers can potentially blind a person. The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) of the Department of Transport has confirmed that while it is informed of all laser incidents, they “only investigate where the flight crew report that the illumination had a particular bearing on the operation and safety of the flight, eg, that their vision was impaired”.

Laser pointers, which are widely available on the internet and can be picked up cheaply, particularly in many European holiday resorts, emit a dazzling red or green beam up to 20 miles. The beam can temporarily blind a person and cause disorientation for a time.


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