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 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.
A Lakeland, Fla. man faces 20 years in prison after aiming his laser pointer at a Polk County sheriffπs helicopter conducting a search-and-rescue mission. The laser caused the flight crew to become disoriented and abort the mission.
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 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.
The Senate at press time was considering a bill that imposes a $250,000 fine and a possible prison term of up to five years for people who point lasers at aircraft. The legislation is an outgrowth of a number of recent incidents. Laser beams can temporarily blind pilots and, in some reported cases, cause permanent eye damage. The bill passed in the House last month.