The Air Line Pilots Association International, FBI and FAA have jointly launched a campaign across 12 U.S. cities to raise public awareness about the consequences of illegal laser attacks on aircraft cockpits. Reports of aircraft laser illuminations in the U.S. have increased sharply over the past few years (partially fueled by an FAA website set up to report such incidents), from 2,836 in 2010 to 3,960 in 2013.
Lasers and aviation safety
The FAA is urging pilots to spend training time focusing on an updated Advisory Circular 70-2A, which deals with what the agency says is “a significant increase in the unauthorized laser illumination of aircraft.” The AC provides guidance to both aircrews and air traffic controllers about formal reporting of laser illumination incidents. Pointing a laser at an aircraft in the U.S.
Night Flight Concepts (NFC) is offering laser defense training online. The one-hour course is available to law enforcement and other first responders for $95 and to other students for $125 through the company’s website: www.nightflightconcepts.com. Upon finishing the course, students take an online quiz and can print a certificate of completion.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority reported last week that the incidence of laser pointers being aimed at aircraft in that country’s airspace is on the rise, mostly during takeoff and landing. Last year 175 incidents were recorded. So far this year there have been 170, indicating a higher total for 2012.
Numbers released on May 15 by the FAA dramatize growing concerns over increasing numbers of people who continue to shine laser pointers at passing aircraft. While relatively harmless in initial appearance, laser beams from even handheld pointers have temporarily blinded pilots and forced crewmembers to take evasive action.
The FAA has directed its investigators and staff to pursue stiffer penalties for people who purposefully point laser devices at aircraft. Shining a laser at an airplane can temporarily blind the pilots, resulting in a safety issue. The number of reported laser incidents nationwide rose to 3,592 last year from 2,836 in 2010.
The FAA launched a new website today where pilots and others can report incidents of lasers being shined at aircraft. It includes links for reporting laser incidents, laser statistics and FAA research on the dangers lasers can pose to pilots.
In response to numerous reports of lasers being pointed at aircraft, the FAA last month issued advisory circular (AC) 70-2 requesting all aircrews to report immediately incidents of unauthorized laser illumination to the appropriate ATC facility. The AC also requires air traffic controllers to notify pilots immediately about laser events.
The House of Representatives passed legislation that aims to punish anyone convicted of knowingly pointing a laser at an aircraft with a maximum of five years in prison. Introduced by Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.), the bill stems from a number of cases over the past few years where pilots have reported lasers being shone in the cockpit, causing temporary loss of vision. To date, no accidents have resulted from laser pointing.
The House of Representatives passed a bill last week that imposes a $250,000 fine and up to a possible five-year prison term for people who point lasers at aircraft. Sponsored by Ric Keller (R-Fla.), the legislation is the outgrowth of several recent incidents. Laser beams can temporarily blind pilots and, in some reported cases, cause permanent eye damage. The bill now awaits passage by the Senate.
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