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Dublin: 10°C Thursday 24 September 2020

Dangerous laser targets air ambulance carrying critically ill baby

The green laser was shone right into the cockpit. The air corps said it could carry risks to passenger and crew.

Air corps
Air corps
Image: Air corps

AN AIR CORPS air ambulance transporting a critically ill baby to hospital was struck several times by a laser earlier this week.

The aircraft was tasked as an air ambulance from Letterkenny to Dublin for a neo-natal call.

A spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that as it flew over Co Cavan with the patient on board the helicopter was hit by a laser for about a minute.

The Air Corps reported 50 laser strikes on its aircraft last year.

Dangers of lasers

The Irish Air Corps took to its Facebook page to raise awareness of the growing problem of lasers, saying:

A laser beam can be refracted through tiny abrasions on the exterior of the cockpit windscreen and thereby illuminate the entire flight deck so as can be seen in the video below a normal laze strike can be extremely dangerous and disorienting to flight crews.

The effect of a laser is “dramatically increased” when pilots are wearing night vision goggles and it can blind them during a critical phase of flight, said the Air Corps

“The effect of these strikes can lead from a loss of situational awareness due to the startle or temporary ‘flash’ blindness to stinging and tearing,” it said.

When coupled with the night vision goggles longer-term effects can include retinal damage from the strike. The risks to passengers and crew are therefore all too obvious.

The spokesperson said that the co-pilot was trying on the night vision goggles when the incident occurred. Green lasers can cause a ‘white out’ of these goggles, totally obscuring vision.

“You literally can’t see,” said the spokesperson, who added that laser strikes can also lead to headaches.

It’s not just the crew that can be affected by lasers – it is also the medical staff and patients who may be on board the air ambulance.

The Air Corps said individuals shining a laser at an aircraft can be easily identified and can be prosecuted by An Garda Síochána under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

It has appealed to people to “please give [crews] the respect they deserve and don’t point lasers at any aircraft”.

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