The laser beam hazard

In recent times, we have experienced a trend that poses great risk to aircrews and flight safety. ‘Laser pointing’ is a practice carried out by brain-muddled individuals and is extremely dangerous. A number of States and governments around the world, including Canada, United Kingdom and Australia, have taken the matter seriously to the extent of introducing firm legislation to ensure the protection of aircraft operations. United Nation’s specialised aviation agency ICAO – the leading authority of the global air transport sector – addresses the issue directly by having set strict Standards, which aim to eliminate this source of danger.

Any bright light and particularly laser beams are a serious hazard to flight operations. This is because bright lights can cause confusion, misunderstanding, distraction and, temporary blindness. As result, the pilot to become disorientated and unsettled during a critical phase of the flight. Therefore, those who intentionally point a powerful piercing light to distract a pilot simply for their own contentment deserve nothing less than a long custodial sentence.

Thousands of incidents worlwide

Over the years, a great number of laser pointing incidents were reported worldwide. Still, at some locations there was a significant decrease of occurrences over extended periods. However, overall the number of laser illuminations has increased year after year. Interestingly, many of the illuminations involve non-commercial passenger flights. For example, offenders targeted police helicopters, air-ambulances and rescue missions at locations in a distance from an airport. 

Laser pointing classed as criminal offence

A number of pilot associations and other relevant organizations have understandably expressed concern about this reckless activity. Pilots would like to see different preventative arrangements coming through. A key recommendation is for laser pointing towards aircrews to be classed as criminal offence. Furthermore, safety professionals mention the use of warning labels and applicable permits to tie in line with the purchase of lasers.  

For me, I believe that an effective mechanism to control the situation will be proper education. This can be teaching at schools, direct public campaigns and wider community learning initiatives. On a similar note, partnerships between aviation stakeholders and authorities could also be effective by delivering fitting safety promotions to airport neighboring populations. I uphold the view that ‘laser pointing’ is an activity for ignorant people. For that reason, we must enrich people’s understanding about the dangers of laser illumination to be able to manage the problem effectively.  

We would like to hear your views on ‘laser pointing’. Do you agree with the view of pilots? Can you suggest any action points to ensure the safety of crews and passengers? Let industry professionals and others hear your opinion.     

Recommended Reading / References:

Licensing of Airports, CAP 168, UK CAA

Annex 14, Aerodromes, ICAO

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