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Alitalia Reports Laser Strike on Pontiff’s Plane

Alitalia has issued a statement of an incident of laser interference with flight crew on the aircraft carrying Pope Francis to Mexico.

Crew on flight AZ4000 reported on Friday 12 February, that during the landing phase of flight at Mexico City Airport, the cockpit was struck by a laser light. The Airbus A330 was transporting the Pontiff Havana to Mexico City.

“Captain Massimiliano Marselli quickly reported the incident to the control tower, as is standard procedure in cases like this,” the airline states.

The airline expects that the control tower will inform the relevant authorities for further investigation. “No member of the crew, nor any passenger suffered injuries as a result,” the airline clarifies. “The landing operation preceded as it normally does, in full and absolute safety.”

Not the first time, not the last

Another laser incident this week raised concerns as a Virgin Atlantic flight departing Heathrow Airport and headed to New York after a laser pointed at the aircraft left one of the pilots onboard temporarily incapacitated.

The cabin of VS025 was struck by a green laser shortly  after take-off from Heathrow at 20:13 GMT on Sunday, but the flight continued as far as overflying Shannon airport when crew reported a “medical issue” to air traffic control with one of the pilots. The flight then turned back to Heathrow and was grounded overnight. The 252 passengers onboard were accommodated in local hotels.

The BBC reports that police are investigating the matter. The Guardian indicates that the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) is urging action to address these criminal incidents.

Balsa’s general secretary, Jim McAuslan, told the Guardian, “This is not an isolated incident. Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with ever-increasing strength.”

“We repeat our call to the government to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them. This incident shows why this is becoming more and more urgent.” He added.

While pointing lasers at a planes is a criminal offence, identifying culprits and further prosecution is complicated. Green lasers in particular are extremely hazardous to pilots because of the intensity of the beams, but there is no such thing as a “safe” laser to point at overflying planes, nor any good reason to do such a thing.



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