As aviation authorities around the world try to work out how best to deal with nitwits flying quadcopters close to airports, another piece of kit continues to cause serious concern when it comes to airline safety – the laser pointer.
Although it’s hard to comprehend, a few people out there seem to think it’s a good idea to shine lasers into the cockpits of planes coming in to land. Apparently they don’t seem to realize that their actions could, in a worst case scenario, cause a pilot to lose control of the aircraft.
The issue is back in the headlines this week after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that on Wednesday night alone, in the space of just a few hours, 11 commercial flights were targeted by lasers as they flew at low altitude into either Newark airport in New Jersey or LaGuardia in nearby New York City. Affected carriers included American Airlines, JetBlue, Delta, United, and Republic, CNN confirmed Thursday.
There are no reports of any injuries among those piloting the targeted aircraft, and no arrests have yet been made. A possible five-year jail term awaits the offender or offenders. FAA data shows the problem of handheld lasers being pointed at planes is a growing one – 3,894 incidents were reported in the U.S. last year, a huge leap from the 283 recorded strikes in 2005.
On its website, the Transportation Security Administration says a beam from a laser pointer, even from a mile away, has the power to light up a cockpit “like a camera flash going off in a pitch black car at night.”
If that isn’t enough to momentarily distract and disorient a pilot who’s focusing on the not insignificant task of landing a plane, a direct hit on their eyes at a crucial moment could certainly cause real problems.
Last year the FAA said it’d documented 35 cases where pilots needed medical treatment after being targeted by a laser strike, though up to now there have been no reports of aircraft losses due to laser pointers.