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Saturday, December 05, 2015


by Lee Nash

A British Airways pilot has reportedly been left with significant damage to his eyesight after a “military-strength” laser was shone into the cockpit of his plane landing at Heathrow, in what appears to be the most serious laser attack to date in the UK. The pilot suffered a burned retina in his right eye and has not worked since, according to the head of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa). The incident has escalated concerns over the problem of laser attacks. Balpa claims that one in two pilots has been in a plane targeted with lasers in the last 12 months. . . . In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration said the number of incidents had grown steadily since it started collating information on laser attacks in 2005. More than 3,700 incidents have been reported in the US this year. —The Guardian, Nov. 23, 2015. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA via The Guardian: A plane lands at Heathrow. 

You may think that the most important
piece of equipment on this passenger jet
is the undercarriage,
or the recently serviced turbofan engine,
or the locking mechanism on the cockpit door.
Or the enhanced GPWS,
or the pitot-static system.
You may be afraid that the flight director
will freeze,
that the rear pressure bulkhead is not airtight.
You may be concerned that human error will occur
over at control tower,
or you may be anxious
that the security check you just passed
to ensure no incendiary device is on board,
in some innocuous soda can, for instance,
has failed.
If there’s enough fuel.
If autopilot somehow flipped to descent.
When you’ve run through the list in your mind,
don’t forget to fret
about one more thing,
the two things that are actually flying
this crate,
two precise, acutely sensitive optical instruments,
and the left one just got fried
when someone in the rundown high-rise opposite
(bypassing every operational sensor
and every moral censor)
shone a military-strength laser
(through the cockpit, into the orbit of the eye,
though pupil, lens and vitreous body)
onto the pilot’s retina.

Lee Nash lives in France and freelances as an editorial designer for a UK publisher. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in print and online journals in the UK, the US and France including The French Literary Review, The Dawntreader, The Lake, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Orbis, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, The Interpreter's House, The Journal (UK), Brittle Star, The World Haiku Review, Black Poppy Review and Silver Birch Press.