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.
MBDA Germany is claiming a world’s first in the development of high-energy laser weapons after coupling together four commercially available 10kW-industrial lasers to achieve a 40kW weapon that can intercept and destroy incoming rockets, artillery and mortars (RAM). Small aerial vehicles, such as UAVs, are also on MBDA’s target list, but the company says power supply challenges still preclude adding lasers to aircraft for defensive purposes.
Night vision solutions provider Night Flight Concepts has released an infographic to teach pilots how to properly prepare for and defend against laser strikes. “As the annual number of laser strikes on aircraft increases, the topic of laser strike readiness [for aircrew] is becoming more pressing,” the company said. Night Flight’s infographic helps arm pilot with the tools they need to “identify, prepare for and recover from laser strikes.”
In another example of the government’s pushback against laser threats to aviation, a federal grand jury in Jacksonville, Fla., indicted John Tyler Pennywitt on October 5. He was accused of shining a handheld laser pointer at a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office helicopter on the night of June 3, 2012. Pennywitt was indicted under a section of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that makes it a federal crime to aim a laser at an aircraft, or even into the path of an aircraft.
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.
Night Flight Concepts is showcasing new night vision solutions this year at its Heli-Expo booth (No. 7841), along with its new laser armor and laser defense systems for civil operators.
So often in the course of covering events, journalists hear statements that never make it into published accounts. Space is limited, time is limited, or the comment is peripheral to the rigid formula of news reportage—who, what, where, when and possibly, why.