While Pope Francis’ remarks about Donald Trump were off target, a laser attack during his flight to Mexico was not.

The airline that carried Pope Francis to Mexico says the plane carrying the pontiff was hit by a laser light from the ground as it arrived on Friday.

Alitalia says no one was hurt and the aircraft landed safely. It said Wednesday that the crew notified the Mexico City airport’s control tower of the incident.

Officials around the world have been increasingly concerned about people training laser pointers on jetliners. In some cases, crewmembers have suffered eye damage.

There is no indication Trump was involved.  (Joke)

The number of attacks have dramatically increased, hitting 5,300 last year. However, as demonstrated by a recent flight from London that was mere days before the papal trip, the boldness of the attacks has escalated.

A “laser incident” forced a pilot to turn around a flight from London to New York, Virgin Atlantic Airlines said.

Virgin Atlantic Flight 025 was en route from Heathrow Airport on Sunday when a laser was pointed at the plane, spokeswoman Jaime Fraser said.

“Following this incident, the first officer reported feeling unwell. The decision was taken by both pilots to return to Heathrow rather than continue the transatlantic crossing,” the airline said on its website.

The aircraft landed safely at Heathrow with 252 passengers and 15 crew, Fraser said.

Last November, three commercial planes in Dallas and two news helicopters in New York were hit with lasers while in flight. During the summer, 12 commercial flights over New Jersey were struck by blinding light. A little closer to my home, an American Airlines flight landing in San Diego was hit by a laser 5 minutes before landing.

An example of a laser attack is provided from this video taken during a flight to Moscow, Russia.

And while injury during these incidents seems uncommon, the attacks are a growing concern.

…Lasers cause a visual distraction and can lead to temporary blindness and longer-term eye damage. In some cases, pilots had eye injuries that required medical treatment.

“Our main concern is with the safety of the aircraft,” [FAA spokesman Lynn] Lunsford said. “You don’t want to have a situation where the pilot can’t fly.”

The FAA is looking at a record number of strikes this year: 5,352 were reported nationwide as of Oct. 16, up from 3,894 for all of 2014. The D-FW area has seen a record 115 laser strike reports as of Oct. 16, up from about 85 for all of last year.

D-FW ranks fifth nationally for the most reported laser strikes so far this year, after Los Angeles (197), Phoenix (183), Houston (151) and Las Vegas (132).

The FAA sees no particular pattern in the top spots, except people have easy access to electronics stores where they can “buy a laser for under $30 that will easily cast a beam that goes for 3 to 5 miles,” Lunsford said.

The fines for those involved in these attacks can be thousands of dollars, and the usual jail time for those convicted is 1-3 years (20 is the maximum set penalty).

The underlying reason for the growing reports of such attacks is that laser pointers have become relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain. And while no airline accident has been officially tied to a laser hit on the pilots, the industry is acutely aware of terror concerns.

Let’s hope a solution is found to protect our pilots and prevent the incidents from escalating to the point were pointers are truly weaponized.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.