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US & Middle East (including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan): U.S. military pilots illuminated by lasers

From January through July 2018, American military pilots reported more than 350 laser illuminations in the Middle East, predominantly in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an August 17 2018 article in the Wall Street Journal.

A spokesperson for U.S. Central Command told the paper that while the source is “exceedingly difficult to pinpoint … many likely come from insurgents and terrorist organizations.”

U.S. crews had no permanent injuries although minor effects such as short-term vision impairment and headaches were reported.

The Journal article did not indicate whether the laser illuminations were being coordinated, or if the perpetrators were using lasers of a different type or power than those commonly involved in illuminations of civilian aircraft outside of conflict zones.

Lasing rate comparison

For comparison with civil aviation, during the same January-July 2018 period American civilian pilots reported 3,182 laser illuminations to the Federal Aviation Administration. In Canada there were roughly 190 laser illuminations reported to Transport Canada, and in the U.K. there were roughly 500 laser illuminations reported to the Civil Aviation Authority.

The Middle East incidents appear to indicate a higher rate of lasing than two recent areas of concern recently disclosed by U.S. military:

  • In May 2018, a Pentagon spokesperson reported “between 2 and ten” lasers aimed at U.S. aircraft operating out of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.
  • From September 2017 to mid-June 2018, about two dozen aircraft in the East China Sea were illuminated by “smaller, commercial grade” laser pointers similar to those sold for pointing and playing with pets.

Laser incidents in the Middle East had been at about 700 in 2015, about 600 in 2016, and were at about 400 in 2017. At the current rate of about 50 per month in the first seven months of 2018, there would be about 600 incidents estimated for all of 2018.

From a Wall Street Journal article by reporter Gordon Lubold; the article is behind a paywall. A non-paywall (free) summary is at The Hill.
Click to read more...

India: 24 laser incidents in eight months at Mumbai airport

From January until September 2017, there were 24 reports of lasers being aimed at aircraft flying to or from Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.

In 2015 there were 24 laser reports in the entire year, and 15 reports during 2016.

In addition to the laser hazards, pilots also reported three drones and two sky lanterns during the first nine months of 2017.

Pilots report cases of laser attacks and lanterns to the Air Traffic Control (ATC), which conveys the information to the airport operator, who reports the incident to the local police. However, policemen said there is no specific law or government notification to deal with such cases.

A police official on condition of anonymity said, “In such complaints, we first find out the reason the light was flashed. If the laser light was coming from a wedding ceremony or any other function, then as a preventive action, we alert concerned people and sensitise them about its dangerous effects on aircraft. However, nothing can be done legally as there is no law under which we can produce anyone in court.”

From the Hindustan Times and Times of India. About a month later, Kolkata reported similar problems with rooftop parties using lasers under the flight path of aircraft.

Canada: Pilot has blurred vision after green laser strike

The first officer of an Air Canada flight on approach to Toronto Pearson International Airport was illuminated by green laser light. The first officer suffered “blurred vision and discomfort lasting for 10-15 minutes” according to a Transport Canada report.

The Airbus A319 had 113 passengers onboard when the incident occurred in November 2017. The captain was able to safely land the aircraft.

The report said that several other aircraft also reported laser light at the same point in their approach, for two nights in a row. The light was reported to be coming from persons in a park.

From mid-November to December 6 2017, there were 23 laser illuminations of commercial aircraft in the Toronto area. Nationwide, there were 381 laser strikes as of the first week of December 2017, down from the approximately 600 incidents reported in 2015 and 2016.

From
The Star

US: North Carolina teen arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

Around 1 am on August 9 2017, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) Police Department helicopter was targeted by a green laser pointer. The crew spotted a person standing outside a vehicle, holding a laser.

They notified ground officers who located the vehicle, found a laser inside, and arrested 18-year-old Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero, aka Abrahan Nasser. The officers also found marijuana in the vehicle.

Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero laser
Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero


Romero was charged with pointing a laser at an aircraft — a felony — and with possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce. Records show Romero had previously been arrested for marijuana possession, for speeding, and for driving without a license.

Since January 2017 there have been 19 incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration of lasers being pointed at aircraft in the Charlotte area.

From the Charlotte Observer and WSCO TV

Canada: UPDATED - Two laser incidents in two days in P.E.I.; child said to have caused one

On July 15 2017, a green laser beam was pointed at an Air Force search-and-rescue aircraft near Fernwood, Prince Edward Island. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the laser was aimed at the aircraft for about 15-20 minutes. A pilot was “dazzled” by the light. The crew were later checked by an eye specialist. None of them had serious or lasting vision problems due to the laser.

The next night, a green laser beam was pointed for 5-10 seconds at a commercial aircraft as it was preparing to land in Charlottetown, which is about 60 km east of Fernwood. The beam came from the Brackley Beach area about 15 km northwest of the Charlottetown Airport, at about 11 pm local time. Neither pilot in the WestJet aircraft looked into the light; they were able to land without incident.

RCMP on July 17 asked the public for help in finding the perpetrators of these incidents.

A follow-up news story quoted a former pilot as saying the person responsible should “face justice.” He said it was a “very dangerous thing to have happen to you, and they are so destructive… Make the penalties very severe when they’re caught.”

In Canada, shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense punishable to up to five years in prison and/or up to $100,000.

On July 18, a witness contacted RCMP to say he was on Brackley Beach from 10:00 to 11:30 pm. He said a child of about 10-12 years old was using a laser to point at several things, including two aircraft. He said the child was tracing the path of a plane, but was not trying to shine it in the cockpit.

The child and his or her family is not known. RCMP said charges might not be placed in this case: “It does appear that this specific incident was a child at play and not a direct criminal offence. That being said, the child was in the custodial guardianship of two adults and RCMP are asking that items of this nature not be used for entertainment and not be provided to young children as they are unaware of the danger that they can inflict."

The director general for civil aviation, Aaron McCrorie, said there were 333 reported incidents in 2012, 590 incidents in 2015, and 527 in 2016. He said there was only one reported laser/aircraft incident in PEI in the past five years; it took place in 2015.

McCrorie said there have been no accidents in Canada due to such incidents but there have been some cases of permanent eye damage to pilots.

From CBC News (
initial report, follow-up, witness report, McCrorie quotes) and OHS Canada

Note: LaserPointerSafety reached out to Transport Canada for clarification about McCrorie’s claim of cases of permanent eye damage to pilots, since we are unaware of any such documented cases with civil pilots either in Canada or worldwide. On July 20 2017, we received an email response from Julie Leroux, Communications Advisor, Media Relations, Transport Canada:

“Laser pointers have serious effects that distract and temporarily blind pilots. While Transport Canada has received reports of pilots experiencing eye damage as a result of a laser strike, due to doctor-patient confidentiality, the department is not in a position to provide details about specific cases.

Generally, pilots report suffering from eye irritation or light sensitivity after being struck in the eye by a laser, which could seriously affect their ability to fly safely.

Mr. Aaron McCrorie, Director General, Civil Aviation, was referring to Canadian cases only.”


On July 26 2017, Leroux further clarified via email:

"Mr. Aaron McCrorie, Director General, Civil Aviation, was misquoted in the [CBC News] story you reference. During the interview he stated Transport Canada is aware of incidents that caused temporary damage to pilots’ eyes, but did not refer to a specific case of permanent blinding. Transport Canada is not aware of any cases where a pilot suffered permanent eye damage as the result of a laser strike."

US: Florida man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 26-year-old man was arrested on July 8 2016, for repeatedly aiming green laser light at a Marion County (Florida) sheriff’s helicopter.

Officers in the helicopter were searching for a kidnapping suspect when they were illuminated 15-20 times as they flew over Weirsdale, Florida, about an hour northwest of Orlando. The pilot was directly hit in the eyes “at least five times” according to a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.

The airborne officers used night-vision equipment to find Phillip Willman. He was arrested and told officers he only aimed the laser at the helicopter once. Willman was charged with six counts of pointing laser light at a driver or pilot.

Pic 2016-07-11 at 5.05.30 PM
Phillip Willman


The Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said that during 2016, there have been “over five” incidents where lasers were aimed at helicopters, two of which ended with an arrest.

From FOX35 Orlando