This is a stupid game that can have very serious consequences. On Wednesday, July 27, shortly before 23:00, a crew from the Gendarmerie Air Section (SAG) of Hyères, under instruction, intercepted the radio message of an Air France commercial flight (AF1783). As he prepares to land at Marseille-Provence airport, coming from Athens, the pilot of the Airbus A320 registered F-HBNG indicates that he was the target of laser fire from La Ciotat, in the Bouches-du-Rhone. The SAG helicopter immediately moves to the area and is in turn targeted. Thanks to the onboard technical equipment, the crew manages to precisely locate the shooter, who acts from the terrace of a building.
On July 28, the crew of the gendarmerie helicopter and the pilot of the Air France plane lodged a complaint as part of an investigation conducted by the research brigade of the Air Transport Gendarmerie (BRGTA) South, based in Marignane. The investigations carried out allowed the rapid identification of the author. The latter, a retiree, was arrested at his home on August 2 and the laser used was seized by the investigators.
Placed in police custody, the defendant was brought the next morning before the Marseilles court, which condemned him to a fine of 2,000 euros (including 1,000 euros suspended) and to the payment of damages to each of the victims for criminal acts of obstruction of air navigation and use of an unauthorised laser.
Glare and loss of visual cues
The use of a laser pointer (above class 2) is limited by law to certain activities (astronomy, science, medicine, defence, etc.). It is most often prohibited, because it presents a real danger for the people targeted (burns to the eyes in particular), and can cause dazzling that is particularly disabling for the pilots, which can lead to the loss of visual cues. When identified, the perpetrators often claim to be unaware of the rules in force, adding that they were unaware of the risks incurred by third parties.
The purchase, possession and of course the unauthorised use of a laser pointer are the subject of several penal incriminations, but the fact of aiming at an aircraft is more severely sanctioned in view of the seriousness of the risk. In this case, the maximum penalty incurred is 5 years imprisonment and a fine of 18,000 euros, or even more in the event of consequences for persons or property.
Particularly aware of the malicious use of laser pointers, the Air Transport Gendarmerie and the Gendarmerie Air Force regularly work together to identify and arrest the perpetrators.