Thursday, March 29, 2012

Laser risk to planes

Online discussion forums have been buzzing with concerns raised by pilots over the use of laser lights by people to distract the pilot when coming in to land. 

On popular pilot discussion forum Avcom, one of the contributors who calls himself 12BPilot, based in Johannesburg, in 2009 said that, at best, the use of lasers was just “a minor nuisance distracting the pilot during the highest work load and critical phase of flight.” 

“At worst it can remove all forward visibility effectively leaving the crew blind because the windscreen is awash with the refracted light of the laser,” he said on the forum. 

This, he said, could also remove any and all night vision which would effectively blind a pilot for 30 to 45 seconds. 

“Interestingly enough, the effects are considerably diminished in rain, since the laser is diffused by the (drops of water),” he said. 

Another contributor, whose nickname was Greeson and was based in Johannesburg, said in his post in 2008 that a green laser going through the cockpit window was “more just an irritation”. 

In a Reuters report in 2008 more than 33 Canadian pilots reported that, since 2005, they had been “flashed in the eyes by bright lights that could have been lasers”. 

“Arty21” on the same forum said in 2008 similar incidents had occurred in Australia. 

Last year, a local newspaper reported that pilots had to look away from the runway when coming in to land and rely on their instruments because they had been blinded by lasers. 

On another forum, Candle Power, those who had used laser bragged about their about their experiments with using the instruments to blind pilots. 

“I probably won’t do it again, but I just wanted to see if my laser was actually capable of dotting an airplane, like many people advertise. 

“And now that I know that it’s possible, I no longer need to prove anything,” said the contributor.
Another enthusiast wrote: “Pointing lasers into the sky, if done safely, is harmless and great fun. Any pilot who would get distracted just by seeing a beam pointing into the sky and crash probably shouldn’t be flying to begin with.”

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