The Federal Aviation Administration released surprising numbers on just how many laser pointers are being aimed at pilots while flying and just how serious a threat to safety it is. In fact, it is such a threat to the safety of not only the pilot but the passengers as well, that the FBI says it will be enforcing new rules to put an end to it. In one instance, a pilot flying over San Jose reported being struck with a laser beam 63 times.
Commercial planes have a special glass that diffuses incoming light and when a laser hits this glass it’s like a camera flash going off in the cockpit. This can temporally blind the pilots which can jeopardize the lives of all on board the aircraft. On average, pilots reported 11 laser strikes a day in 2013, the report said, that’s a 1000 percent increase from 2005. It’s becoming such a problem that the FBI says it is now offering rewards for any information that will lead to the arrest of someone who is “lasing” pilots.
Laser pointers are relatively cheap and easy to come by, someone can purchase one of the internet for as little as $50, and they do have educational and industrial uses. Some lasers are powerful enough that Astronomy teachers use them for star finding, others can burn through metal. However, lasers should never be pointing at anyone, especially in the eyes, even the cheapest of pointers has this warning on them. However, people started “lasing” almost as soon as laser pointers came about. It started with “lasing” people on the streets, then in their cars and now, the most dangerous, pilots flying over them.
A laser pointer being aimed at pilots is such a serious threat that the FBI will start investigation every reported occurrence. The reason they are taking this so seriously is because it can temporally blind them, not only if struck directly in the eye but also because of the special glass. The threat lies in the fact that once the laser beam hits the glass it lights up the cockpit like if someone used a camera flash, which can blind not only the pilot but the co-pilot as well and if they are both blinded, who’s going to fly the plane? Even though the blindness is temporary it only takes a few seconds to make a critical error that can lead to a catastrophic plane crash.
The most dangerous point a pilot can be “lased” is during the landing procedures. It is at this time the pilot is in full control of the aircraft and is already preoccupied with not only keeping the plane level, but also, slowing the plane and running through landing procedures. If blinded on the runway, the pilot could lose control on steering the plane causing a crash that could cost lives.
The threat of laser pointers aimed at pilots is very real. The FBI says it is taking it seriously enough to offer an award of $10,000 that leads to the arrest of a person that commits “lasing” on a pilot. Although a crash as not happened yet, it is only inevitable if “lasing” is not stopped.
By Adam Stier