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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: 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.
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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: 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: New York Times calls attention to pilots' laser risk

A January 21 2011 New York Times article describes how “High-Powered Laser Pointers Pose Risk to Pilots”. Author Christine Negroni discusses how laser light can distract pilots, the number of incidents in the U.S., and what steps are being taken. The article extensively quotes Samuel Goldwasser, author of Sam’s Laser FAQ, regarding laser technology. Goldwasser is quoted as saying that poor regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a problem.


From the New York Times. Readers of the Times article may also be interested in clarifications, tips and links compiled by LaserPointerSafety.com.

US: Orlando Sentinel runs article on laser hazards

The Orlando Sentinel has run a story entitled “Lasers causing havoc for pilots in record numbers.” The story discusses FAA laser incident statistics nationally, as well as for Florida and the Orlando area. The author, Gary Taylor, also discusses Orlando area incidents such as these.

From the Orlando Sentinel

Russia: Jail proposed for laser "hooligans"; media asked to not report incidents

The United Russia party has introduced legislation calling for 10-year jail terms for laser “hooligans”. The bill was sent to the lower house of the Russian Parliament, the State Duma. It is unclear from news reports whether the legislation’s 10-year penalty is simply for aiming at or illuminating an aircraft, or if it is for cases that result in deaths.

The Moscow Times said Rostov-on-Don’s police chief wanted a 10-year term for people who blind pilots if their actions result in deaths. Alexi Lapin also blamed media attention for encouraging copycats: “Publicity in the media only encourages them to act. In medicine, this is called an epidemic, and it has yet to peak.”

Others agreed with the police chief’s media theory, including the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who banned laser pointer sales (and by some media accounts, possession) on July 4 2011. A senior Transportation Ministry official asked media to stop covering the incidents: "Judging by the European experience, the less information there is on the issue, the fewer cases"

The attention comes after more than 50 reports of “laser hooliganism” thus far this year in Russia. This compares with five incidents in all of 2010.

From RIA Novosti., the Moscow Times and Bloomberg. See also other LaserPointerSafety.com stories about Russian aviation incidents and laser statistics.