Swiss pilots join laser clampdown

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Swiss pilots join laser clampdown

Swiss pilots join laser clampdown
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Swiss aviation authorities are the latest to denounce pranksters who point laser beams at pilots coming in to land.

Several criminal investigations are underway following a growing number of cases.

The Swiss Civil Aviation Authority reported 40 last year. Rescue helicopter pilots have also been targetted.

Experts say the pranks can be highly dangerous.

“Approaching and landing demands particular attention,” said Gerard Felder, a former airline pilot. “In other words once you see the runway you’d better not take your eyes off it. If you have a disruptive element such as a laser beam, excessive light, a bolt of lightning or most dangerously a storm, your vision is lost and that disturbs your reflexes.”

Pocket lasers are often cheap and easily obtainable.

In France a specialised unit has been set up equipped with digital technology enabling the source of laser beams to be traced.

This week the government announced an increase in resources to tackle the problem.

“Sometimes it’s just someone who wants to have fun by pointing a laser at a plane or a vehicle – cars are also concerned. And then there’s one who does it deliberately, aiming to impede the plane as it comes in to land,” said Hugues Desmoulins, squadron leader with the French Air Transport Gendarmerie.

The Americans have used anti-terrorist laws to pursue offenders. In November last year one man who repeatedly shone a laser at aircraft was jailed for two and a half years.

Last week a young Frenchman was convicted in Paris and given a six-month suspended sentence.