Laws to make aircraft laser strikes an offence

People who target aircraft pilots with laser beams face jail and fines of up to €50,000 under laws being introduced this week against such potentially lethal behaviour.

According to the Irish Aviation Authority, there were 158 laser “strikes” made on pilots in Irish airspace last year.

Legislation due to pass the final stage of the Oireachtas tomorrow contains a measure making it a specific offence to dazzle an aircraft pilot with laser beams.

The measure is part of the Safe Airports Bill and its due to be signed into law by President Michael D Higgins within days of the final stage in the Seanad.

The law comes as the Defence Forces confirmed there have been 11 laser attacks on Air Corps aircraft so far this year. In 2013, the Air Corps was targeted in a total of 49 such strikes — where beams of light are deliberately shone from the ground into the eyes of pilots in the air.

A spokesperson for the Defence Forces said such strikes are a cause of concern, and are reported to the Irish Aviation Authority and the gardaí.

One of the most serious recent incidents occurred last week when an air ambulance was struck as it transported a critically ill baby to hospital.

The helicopter cockpit was struck several times by the laser as it was transferring the baby from Letterkenny General Hospital to the Rotunda in Dublin.

Air Corps spokesman Cpt Brendan O’Dowd said the air ambulance came under attack as it passed over Kingscourt, Co Cavan, last Wednesday at 10.15pm. He said the incident posed a danger to patient and the pilots, and had the potential to cause permanent eyesight damage.

He appealed for people to recognise the dangers of directing lasers at aircraft and said perpetrators would be reported to gardaí.


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