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US: UPDATED - Reporter questions effect of FAA/FBI "blame and shame" campaign

A well-known aviation reporter has taken issue with how the FAA and FBI are trying to reduce the number of laser illuminations on aircraft. On August 28 2014, Christine Negroni published a post on her blog Flying Lessons entitled “Aviation’s Effort Combating Laser Attacks Hashtag #Ineffective #Insane”.

She disagrees with the U.S. government’s primary focus being a “blame and shame” campaign that tries to capture laser perpetrators using helicopters, then prosecutes them and publicizes the resulting multi-year sentences. Negroni calls this a “high-tech, heavy-metal, dollar-intensive approach to the problem … [that] has gone terribly wrong…”

Her contention is that persons who aim at aircraft “don’t watch television news, read the daily newspaper or log on to the FAA laser education website before heading out into the night with their nifty green or blue laser pointers.”

She ends her blog post by calling for creativity to try to market this message to its target audience of teens and young men, using a more sophisticated publicity or social media effort.

In the past few years Negroni has written about what she calls “this disaster in the making” for the New York Times, MSNBC, and the Smithsonian’s Air & Space magazine. Late in 2013, she wrote a more detailed article for the blog Runway Girl Network, exploring the problem — and suggested solutions — in more depth.

From Flying Lessons. Background information disclosure: LaserPointerSafety.com provided some information to Negroni which was used in her articles.

UPDATED September 8 2014 - Negroni’s blog post was reprinted by the Huffington Post.

US: Wall Street Journal article describes laser pointer hazards to aircraft

The Wall Street Journal published a story August 27 2014, by legal reporter Ashby Jones, entitled “Laser-Pointer Strikes Menace Pilots: Jail Sentences, Rewards Haven’t Stopped the Practice.”

The article begins by saying that “People keep aiming powerful laser pointers at aircraft ... despite jail sentences for offenders and rewards for people who turn them in.”

It quotes unnamed law enforcement experts and prosecutors as saying that most strikes are “not done out of maliciousness, but irresponsibility.” The FAA told the WSJ author that no accidents or aborted takeoffs or landings have been attributed to laser incidents.

Jones notes that the FBI’s recent publicity and prosecution campaign “appear[s] to have led to some success, with the number of laser strikes in recent months dropping to about nine a day from about 11 in 2013, according to an FBI spokeswoman. She said this crime was the first for which the FBI has offered a reward that didn’t involve a fugitive or missing person.”

The article describes a few cases, then in the penultimate paragraph, states “Still, thousands of laser strikes, particularly involving commercial planes, go unpunished. Since 2005, only 162 people have been arrested for strikes, and 86 convicted, according to the FBI.”

From the Wall Street Journal. The article may be behind a paywall, requiring a subscription to access the full text. Aviation reporter Christine Negroni was moved by the WSJ article to respond a day later with a blog post entitled “Aviation’s Effort Combating Laser Attacks Hashtag #Ineffective #Insane”.”

US: FBI expands laser education & reward campaign nationwide for 3 months

The FBI is expanding nationwide its program to publicize the hazards of aiming laser pointers at aircraft, and to offer up to $10,000 as a reward for information leading to the arrest of laser perpetrators.

The original FBI education and reward program ran from February 11 to April 11 2014 in 12 U.S. cities that had high rates of laser/aircraft incidents. The FBI said the program led to a 19 percent decrease in lasing reports.

The new, nationwide program was announced June 3 2014. The $10,000 reward offer is scheduled to last for 90 days; until September 1.

The FBI said they are working on the educational campaign with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Air Line Pilots Association, International, and state, local and international law enforcement. They are outreaching to schools, teaching teens to not aim at aircraft.
Read More...

US: 129 laser/aircraft incidents in Florida thus far in 2014

Between January and mid-May 2014, there were 63 lasings of aircraft in the South Florida area, and 129 incidents in all of Florida.

The NBC Miami “Team 6 Investigators” did a report on laser incidents, how pilots are endangered, and the enforcement effort to find perpetrators. The report aired May 16 2014.

From NBCMiami.com

US: FBI offers $10,000 reward; warns public about laser pointer misuse

For 60 days, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is offering a reward of $10,000 for information about anyone pointing a laser at an aircraft. Between February 11 and April 11 2014, persons reporting lasers being pointed at aircraft should call their local FBI field office or the 911 emergency number.

This comes as part of a publicity campaign by the FBI to inform the public and especially teenagers about the dangers of lasing aircraft. The agency said teens are the primary age group responsible for laser/aircraft illuminations.

[Note: There appear to be no official records of perpetrators’ ages. However, here are lists of incidents recorded in LaserPointerSafety.com news items, based on the age of the perpetrator: 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69. Counting the stories in each group may give a rough indication of the age distribution of laser perpetrators.]

The two-month campaign will focus on 12 cities with large number of incidents. FBI field offices participating in the regional reward program are Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Juan, and the Washington Field Office.

During the campaign, the FBI and the Air Line Pilots Association International will work with Clear Channel Outdoor to hang billboards and issue public service announcements in these cities, warning people that a laser prank can lead to prison.
Read More...

US: "The Straight Dope" answers the question "Should I be afraid of laser pointers?"

The syndicated newspaper column “The Straight Dope” answered a reader’s question about laser pointers as weapons: “Now more than ever, the world seems to be in need of ray guns…. What’s the holdup? Should I be scared of laser pointers?”

The answer first noted that laser weapons are large. An anti-missile laser required a Boeing 747, the Navy set fire to a boat with a destroyer-mounted laser, and a dazzler-type laser called the PHaSR is as portable “as a bag of cement.”

Then, Straight Dope purchased a 1 watt blue handheld laser (the same or similar to the Wicked Lasers Spyder III Arctic). They aimed it at room temperature pork chops and bacon. From one foot away, it took 27 seconds of continuous exposure before smoke appeared. Even with matches, it took 11 seconds to light a match from one foot away, and 15 seconds from 32 feet away.

The January 6 2012 column concluded that handheld laser ray guns are not practical: “…the likelihood that this laser would actually change somebody’s mind (other than via intimidation alone) is virtually nil…. no bad guy is going to sit still while you fry him.”

Story and photos are at the Straight Dope website. The column was also printed in the Washington City Paper.

UPDATE: In comments at the Washington City Paper, “dave b” noted that exposure to skin isn’t necessarily the important factor: “The key is to get the laser into someone’s eye.”
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US: Los Angeles TV news report about increasing laser pointer incidents

On January 4 2012, Los Angeles TV station KABC presented a two-minute report on the increasing numbers of lasers being pointed at aircraft. It was triggered by the previous day’s arrest of a man in Glendora, California for aiming a laser at a police helicopter.

KABC quoted the Glendora regional police helicopter tactical flight officer who was illuminated as saying “The laser could cause [eye] damage, and there’s a potential for the helicopter to crash.” The report said he and a pilot were recently trained by the FBI in how to handle a laser attack and how to track down a suspect.

Laser incidents are rising both nationwide and at local airport Los Angeles International (LAX), stated the report. It concluded by reminding the public that “any offense jeopardizes the safety of everyone.”

Pic 2012-01-05 at 11.18.25 AM
Click the screenshot above to view the video report from KABC


From
KABC


US: ALPA holds major D.C. conference on the threat of laser illuminations

An all-day conference in Washington D.C. brought together legislators, regulators, aviation safety officials and pilots to discuss "Laser Illumination of Aircraft: A Growing Threat." The October 27 2011 event was organized by ALPA, the Air Line Pilots Association. It was primarily intended to bring public attention to the many aspects of this issue. (Selected presentations are available from the ALPA laser conference website.)

Speakers generally agreed on the nature and scope of lasers as a threat to air safety. They also offered similar solutions, including educating the public to not misuse lasers, prosecuting those who do, training pilots on how to "recognize and recover" from incidents, increasing the number of reports from pilots and the public, and restricting laser pointer availability.

The ALPA conference made news primarily for the announcement of a new FAA web page, which can be reached via www.faa.gov/go/laserinfo. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told the ALPA attendees that the web page -- erroneously described as a "website" in many media accounts -- would centralize the agency's information on laser/aviation safety. The page includes email addresses where pilots, air traffic control and the public can report laser incidents (see separate story about the FAA web page).

Babbitt also said that the FAA currently has filed 18 civil cases against individuals who aimed lasers at aircraft. There is a maximum $11,000 fine in each case.

Other speakers gave updates and information in their areas of expertise. Read More...

US: Two FBI videos warning against lasers get 250,000+ YouTube views

The FBI issued a press release and YouTube video on September 26 2011, warning the public against aiming lasers at aircraft. Titled “Making a Point about Lasers”, the informational video garnered over 25,000 views on YouTube in three days:


The video highlights Justin Stouder, a St. Louis-area resident who was arrested in April 2010 for aiming at a police helicopter. He apologized at a news conference in July 2011 intended to publicize the illegality and hazards of lasers aimed at aircraft.

The FBI also released video excerpts of the Stouder laser incident and his subsequent identification by the helicopter and arrest. The incident/arrest video was about 10 times as popular on YouTube, with over 225,000 views:


The press release, and a transcript of the video, are below (click on the Read More… link). Read More...