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Malta: UPDATED - Amateur astronomer admits aiming laser at aircraft; says it could not have caused a problem

A member of the Malta Astronomical Society admitted in court that an aircraft crossed into his laser beam while he was pointing out planets to his young nephew. David Camilleri testified on December 11 2013 that he did not turn off the beam during the June 16 2013 incident.

Taking the stand in his own defense, he told the court that the AirMalta light would have hit the side or tail, but not the cockpit, based on the aircraft’s flight path. He sad that as the son of a retired air traffic controller, he was aware of traffic and flight paths.

In addition, the laser’s range was stated in a brochure as 3 km, while the aircraft was 9 km away from Camilleri’s position.

The prosecution noted that the brochure warned against aiming at aircraft as it could disrupt the flight and was illegal. The prosecutor objected to Camilleri as he was not an expert but was expressing “mere opinion”.

The judge scheduled the next hearing for February 25 2014. An independent court expert will be appointed to provide technical terms and assistance.

From Malta Today

UPDATED - June 4 2014: A web search for “David Camilleri laser” has not turned up any results. The most recent items are stories of his December 11 2013 court appearance. So the outcome of this case does not seem to be available online.

Malta: "Semi-pro" astronomer argues in court that laser pointing is not hazardous

A 48-year-old Malta man is accused of hitting an airplane cockpit five times with a laser beam as it was landing. The pilot reported that he looked directly at the beam which caused a dark spot in his vision, lasting about 10 minutes. The first officer described how the cockpit lit up in green from the beam.

In court in early October, David Camilleri of Rabat was described as a “semi-professional astronomer” who was aiming at stars. He said airplanes were not his target. Camilleri’s lawyer said the case was “being blown out of proportion.” He argued that if lasers were capable of bringing down aircraft, terrorists would use them to cause crashes. He also noted that footballer Lionel Messi was able to score despite having 10 lasers pointed at him during a match.

The trial is ongoing as of October 4 2013, so the outcome is not yet known.

From the Malta Independent

Canada: $5000 fine for aiming at three aircraft

On July 26 2011, a 39-year-old Calgary man was fined CDN $5000 for aiming a “Class 3” green laser pointer at a small plane, a small jet and a traffic helicopter. Chris Saulnier pleaded guilty to the January 5 2011 illuminations. He was identified via video taken from the helicopter and turned over to the police.

His lawyer said Saulnier had an interest in astronomy, and was “not thinking about the consequences, he’s just thinking and wondering whether his beam can hit what he thought was the belly of the airplane.... In hindsight, he knows the seriousness of it and accepts responsibility...”

From the
Calgary Herald

UPDATE July 28 2011: Representatives of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Saulnier was not a RASC member, and did not represent responsible amateur astronomy. More details are here.

US: Second laser assault in a week in Glendale CA

For the second time in less than a week a Glendale, California police helicopter was illuminated by laser light. In a May 27 incident, the aircrew was able to locate the South Glendale building where the beam came from. When they were illuminated again, they were able to pinpoint an apartment in the building.

31-year-old Erick Alberto Medina was arrested. He told officers that he did not point at the helicopter but instead had been using a telescope equipped with a laser pointer for sighting.

A police spokesperson said “It’s not a game. It’s not a joke. It’s an assault.”

Earlier, on May 22, a Glendale police helicopter was illuminated and officers made an arrest, as reported here.

From the
Glendale News-Press

UPDATE, July 8 2011: Medina was arraigned in court. A news report did not list the exact charge against him, but did say that “he faces a possible three-year prison term if convicted.” From the Los Angeles Daily News

UPDATE 2, July 12 2011: Medina pleaded not guilty to one felony count of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. The court date was set for July 20. From the Glendale News-Press

US: Over two years in prison, $10,000 fine for lasering police helicopter

James Gautieri, 53, was sentenced on April 13 2011 to 33 months in prison plus a $10,000 fine for the April 30 2008 illumination of a police helicopter in Philadelphia. The charge was “interference with an aircraft.” The chopper pilot testified that he was temporarily blinded and the aircraft went into a nosedive. He said he would have crashed if his co-pilot had not taken over the controls.

The judge called Gautieri a “liar” for claiming that he was using the laser to follow stars.

Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey said “Let the sentencing today send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated.” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said “As a direct result of his reckless and irresponsible behavior, the defendant will now have several years to think about how he endangered public safety by shining a laser into a helicopter pilot's eyes.”

From
NBC Philadelphia, CBS Philly and an FBI press release

Canada: Calgary "amateur astronomer" charged

A 39-year-old Calgary man was charged after a Jan. 5 2011 incident where a radio station traffic airplane, and a television helicopter, were illuminated by a green laser. Chris Sean Saulnier faces “one count of endangering the safety or security of an aircraft in flight..., two counts of projecting a light source into navigable airspace in such a manner to create a hazard to aviation safety, and two counts of mischief to property.”

Saulnier said he bought the $100 laser for his work as a contractor and as an amateur astronomer. He cooperated with police and was “remorseful and took full responsibility for his actions” according to a police spokesman.

From the
Calgary Herald