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.
NFC began developing the course a year ago in partnership with aviation physiologist and Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) advisor Dr. Dudley Crosson. NFC president Adam Aldous said the course is a practical guide to recognizing and mitigating the growing threat from laser strikes on aircraft. “We cover what a laser looks like, what damage it can do to people and aircraft, how a pilot and crew should respond to a laser, who they should report it to and medical aftercare to mitigate eye damage,” Aldous said. “Hospital emergency rooms don’t necessarily know how to treat someone hit with a laser, so it is important to know the right types of test to request to make sure there is no eye damage,” Aldous said.
The first thing a flight crew has to remember during a laser strike, Aldous said, is “not to look at it. A pilot’s first instinct is to look at a bright light, and the standard law-enforcement tactic is to identify where the laser is coming from and let them [the perpetrators] keep shining it until they can be captured. From a safety perspective, this is not the recommended procedure. Don’t look at the light. Depending on what else is happening, a pilot may have to transition to instruments and turn away from the hazard.”
In addition to the course, NFC offers laser protective eyewear for $150 a pair that protects against blue and green lasers. “It absorbs energy at a specific wavelength. If a wide laser beam hits an aircraft canopy, a pilot can get flash blindness,” Aldous said. “These glasses allow [the user] to see through it. [He] might not even realize [he’s] been struck by a laser.” NFC also offers laser interference filters that can shield sensors and night-vision-goggle lenses.
Laser strikes have become a growing problem over the last several years, Aldous said. “There is an issue out there and we need to do something about it,” he added.
Even search-and-rescue aircraft are being hit by laser strikes. Last month U.S. Coast Guard helicopters were forced to abandon searches on three separate occasions after being struck near Garden City Beach, S.C. Directing lasers at aircraft is a federal felony that carries a five-year prison term.