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The Growing Threats To Aircraft From Lasers

The malicious use of lasers to blind pilots and air traffic controllers is rapidly growing and experts fear that these could lead to a crash someday.




The malicious use of lasers to blind pilots and air traffic controllers is rapidly growing and experts fear that these could lead to a crash someday. In the wake of these incidents in Europe, Eurocontrol is calling upon the European Union to criminalize the malicious use of lasers aimed at pilots and air traffic controllers.
Eurocontrol reported that there were 4,266 such incidents in Europe last year. In contrast, the number of incidents in the U.S.A. last year was 2,836 and 1,527 in 2009.
Eurocontrol safety expert Dragica Stankovic said “Preventing and mitigating the current problem requires a harmonized approach throughout Europe. We need the full involvement of regulators, judicial authorities, police, airlines and their associations, air navigation service providers, laser manufacturers who must understand how serious the problem is, as well as research institutes.”
In the U.S.A., interference with commercial airlines is already a federal crime, but most European states don’t have these laws.
Depending on the type of lasers used, pilots and controllers can be temporarily blinded, or worse, permanently impair vision. These lasers which are commercially available, are aimed mostly at aircraft landing and taking off, the two most critical phases of flight. Helicopters operating at low altitudes are also vulnerable to the attacks, as are control towers.
Some are calling for the reclassification of lasers as weapons including Stankovic who said “EU legislation should cover the purchase, the carriage and the use of laser, exactly in the same way as for handguns, rifles and other weapons.”

Have you been a target of a laser attack?

I want to hear your story. How do you recognize that it’s a laser attack, and how can these be mitigated?


4 Responses

10.24.11

It is somehow stupid to see pilots blinded by cheap laser diodes. Such beams are not powerful (class I) and besides that the people should not have close access to the runways. While the plane is high in the air, it is pretty unlikely for a pilot to get blinded as long as the beam in coming from beneath.

10.24.11

Dear Wayne,
It has been very interesting to read your work papers since I joined your website, from the beginning I have learned a lot about aviation and particularly in Air Traffic Control field.
My question is, what laser stand for in aviation, how does it operate and who can manipulate it? I am in Africa just near South Africa, Mozambique, and we would like to know more about this new weapon that can endanger our lives.
Thank you for the attention.

10.24.11

Hi Wayne,
I’m new to your blog, and already read some of your posts and found it very interesting! Thanks for sharing. I’m an air traffic controller from Israel, doing aerodrome and approach services in a tourism city name Eilat. (ICAO: LLET)
The airport located on the middle of the city, separating the hotels area from the rest of the city, by the sea, close to the sidewalk. At least 2-3 times in a week pilots report after landing that they we’re interrupted with laser during the final. We are facing this problem every week. People are not familiar enough with the results of laser threats. It is considered as a crime here, but it’s very difficult to track the source of the laser threat and spot the person. The only detail we pass the police is the area where it came fron based on the pilots report.

10.24.11

Thank you Ravid for your comments. The incidents of laser pointing is really a big problem all around the globe. The challenge, as you mentioned, is finding the perpetraitors of the act. We must remain vigilant however and report every incident to the authorities.

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About Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, a career air traffic controller. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from around the aviation world. A post titled “13 Characteristics of an Air Traffic Controller” written in 2010 went viral and established me as the unofficial ambassador of ATC.

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