Pilots report huge rise in laser attacks on planes
Published 14/01/2010 | 05:00
DANGEROUS lasers were targeted at almost 30 planes from one Irish airline which were trying to land at Dublin Airport last year.
And the garda helicopter was deployed to deal with laser incidents -- which have the potential to temporarily blind pilots -- on 39 occasions at the airport.
The Irish Airline Pilots Association yesterday told the Oireachtas Transport Committee the helicopter was only called by air traffic control in Dublin when three or four incidents were reported close together -- meaning that the number of incidents may actually be nearer 150.
Captain Donal Daly from IALPA also said some pilots did not report laser attacks, which he said had increased substantially in the last 18 months.
Though he would not reveal which airline had been targeted, he said that there was evidence that the garda helicopter was targeted on a weekly basis.
There were 737 laser incidents in the UK and Ireland last year, and IALPA said there is no system to record and monitor Irish attacks.
It is feared the lasers, which can cause severe eye damage and have a range of three miles, could lead to serious accidents or lead to disruption at airports.
Six planes had to be diverted in an attack at Sydney Airport in 2008 and the planes were forced to change their flight paths.
It is feared that, even if that happens, the planes would be so low on fuel since they were just landing they would not make it to alternate landing spots.
Australian authorities chan-ged the law after the incident, and committee chairman Frank Fahey told Mr Daly he would recommend similar legislation in Ireland.
Mr Daly said the strongest 'grade four' lasers, usually used to remove tattoos, could be bought for €1,000 online.
Lasers are also used by teachers, lecturers and organisations such as Astronomy Ireland.
It was just a matter of time until these could be bought for lower prices, and Mr Daly said that pilots had resorted to holding up clipboards to shield their eyes as they landed.