Unbelievable footage from Palermo, shows fireworks aimed at an Italian State Police AW139 helicopter on Covid-19 patrol during Easter Sunday.
Helicopters belonging to the Italian Police, Armed Forces and Armed Corps are regularly involved in Covid-19 patrol missions: when they spot suspect gatherings of people possibly breaching social distancing regulations and being out for no authorised reason, they direct ground teams to intercept them. Videos emerged in the last weeks have shown Police helicopters flying low over the beaches of Southern Italy where some people was subathing in spite of the nationwide lockdown imposed since last month.
However, what has happened on Apr. 12, during Easter Sunday, in Palermo, on the northwestern coast of the Italian island of Sicily, is almost unbelievable.
An AW139 of the Polizia di Stato (Italian State Police), was flying a routine patrol mission when the crew spotted a group who had gathered on the rooftop of a building for an Easter Sunday BBQ. But, as the chopper approached the block, fireworks were aimed at the helicopter, forcing it to remain at safe distance before going away.
The scene, that several media have called “a reckless show of defiance”, was filmed from the helicopter as well as from neighbours. Some videos posted on Youtube and on news websites, include scenes filmed by those who were taking part in the BBQ on the roof of an apartment block. “These people are nothing but idiots. We will track them down and they will face the full force of the law,” said Mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando.
Fireworks are considered a hazard to aircraft: when firework activity is planned, a specific NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) is issued to advertise the location and effective period, so that pilots can avoid the area. At night, fireworks can temporarily blind aircrews (especially if they wear light-intensifying devices such as Night Vision Goggles); during daily activities they can be extremely dangerous because with their peak altitude at about 200 feet above the launching site, they can hit the aircraft and/or get ingested into its engines.
The video below, filmed by a webcam shows, a chopper of the Carabinieri (Military Police), flying low over a deserted beach near Palermo where a man was sunbathing disrespectful of the prohibitions imposed by the Italian Government for the Coronavirus emergency.
Designated UH-139C, the Italian Police’s AW139 is a variant of the market-leading Leonardo AW139 baseline, a modern, non-developmental, multi-mission helicopter that is in service with 270 governments, militaries (including the Italian Air Force) and companies across the world. According to Leonardo, over 900 AW139s are already in service. The Police configuration includes a high definition latest generation FLIR, satellite communication system, searchlight, rescue hoist, cabin mission console and a high definition video down link. The U.S. Air Force MH-139 is also a variant of the AW139, with sensor turret under the nose with electro-optical and infrared cameras, provisions for machine gun mounts and possibly hoists.