A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Utah National Guard reluctant to report laser cases to FBI, apparently after suspect's suicide

Utah National Guard pilots have not reported incidents where lasers were aimed at their aircraft since at least September 2009, according to an August 30 2017 news story in the South Valley (Utah) Journal.

In an interview, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Williams discusses the hazards of laser interference with pilots. He recounts an episode in mid-July 2017 where he and a co-pilot were lased. They identified the source of the laser beam. Ground officers found that the perpetrator was a teenager. Williams said “We specifically requested that the cops not get the FBI involved. I don’t want any kids going to jail or getting felony charges on their record.”

He added, “When the cop showed up at the door and explained to the dad what was going on, the dad broke the kid’s laser there on the spot.”

The reluctance to report appears to stem from a 2009 lasing incident which was reported to the FBI. A 30-year-old man, Joshua Don Park, “on a whim” decided to aim a cat laser pointer at a Utah National Guard helicopter. Park told arresting officers that he was unaware the laser’s light could interfere with pilots’ operations. The Journal story says Park “faced up to five years in prison. [Another source says he faced up to 20 years.] Tragically, he committed suicide shortly before he could be sentenced.”

The story continues, “Since that sobering incident, no Utah National Guard pilots have reported lasing incidents to the FBI—but not for lack of occurrences. ‘My unit alone has had two incidents in the past three months,’ said Williams.”

From the South Valley Journal. More details about the original February 2009 lasing and September 2009 suicide are here.

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.
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US: 134 laser arrests, 80 convictions, out of 17,725 incidents, 2005-2013

According to Ars Technica writer Cyrus Farivar, in the U.S. from 2005 to 2013 there were 134 arrests for aiming lasers at aircraft, out of 17,725 FAA-reported lasing incidents. He wrote “That means that even amongst reported incidents, there’s only a 0.75 percent chance of getting caught. Adding countless unreported incidents would only make that minuscule percentage go down further.”

Farivar noted that there were 80 convictions among the 134 arrests. One reason for the conviction rate of 60%: some who were arrested were minors who were never formally charged.

The extensively researched 4,200-word article, dated May 21 2014, was based around the 14-year sentence handed down in March 2014 to Sergio Rodriguez, for his August 2012 aiming of a laser at two helicopters, one medical and one police. Farivar used the case to illustrate many laser/aviation issues, especially about how prosecution is being used to try to educate and deter future incidents.

Farivar interviewed Karen Escobar, who has brought more cases against laser perpetrators than any other federal prosecutor. Her territory includes Sacramento, Fresno, and Bakersfield.

In the article, Escobar was quoted as saying “At sentencing, [Rodriguez] did not accept responsibility for his actions; he blamed his 2- and 3- year-old children. I believe the evidence showed the laser was a dangerous weapon, and there was intention, supporting a guideline sentence of 168 months. I would not call it harsh. I would say it is a penalty that fits the crime, but I believe that it will have a deterrent effect, and I hope it will.”

Farivar noted that, “While 14 years might sound incredibly excessive for an incident that caused no serious or lasting physical injury, much less death, this is the emerging reality for attorneys prosecuting laser strikes. The Rodriguez sentence now serves as an example of what can happen to defendants who don't take plea deals. (The plea deals typically end up being around two years.)”

From Ars Technica

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: FAA updates laser reporting method in AC 70-2A

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on February 8 2013 updated how pilots are to report laser incidents to the agency. This was done in Advisory Circular 70-2A, “Reporting of Laser Illumination of Aircraft”, which replaces the older AC 70-2 which was first introduced January 11 2005.

The changes include:
  • Air Traffic Control can now regard a laser illumination of aircraft incident as an “in-flight emergency”, due to the potential debilitating injuries which could compromise safety and interfere with aircrew duties.
  • New web-based methods by which pilots can report incidents
  • Additional information in the Resources and the Related Documents sections

The key part of the document is the reporting procedure: “On arrival at destination, all aircrews that have been affected by an unauthorized laser illumination are requested to complete the Laser Beam Exposure Questionnaire. The questionnaire is located on the FAA’s Laser Safety Initiative Web site at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/lasers/ and can be electronically submitted. The questionnaire may also be printed and faxed to the WOCC at (202) 267-5289, ATTN: DEN, or emailed to laserreports@faa.gov.”

From FAA Advisory Circular 70-2A

New Zealand: Average of 8.9 laser injury claims per year, costing NZD $93.63 each

Over the 13 years from 1 July 2000 through 15 June 2013, there have been an average of 8.9 insurance claims per year relating to laser eye and skin injuries in New Zealand, according to the country’s Accident Compensation Corporation. This covers all types of lasers, including those used in industrial, commercial, home, school and other locations.

The laser injury claim rate has increased from about 5 per year to about 13 per year, over the 2000-to-2013 period. The increase works out to 0.73 additional claim per year. This increase is one reason that New Zealand is taking action in 2013 to restrict higher-power handheld lasers.

NZ average number of claims per year


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US: FAA updates pilot reporting questionnaire

For 2013, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has developed a new questionnaire for pilots who report laser illumination incidents. The goal was to capture more detailed information about the incident, its effect on the aircrew, and on the aircraft’s flight and mission. New questions include:

Flight information
  • Aircraft type: Airplane, rotorcraft, lighter than air, other
  • Type of operation: Commercial aviation, general aviation, military, law enforcement, medical, news reporting, other
  • Time of day: Daytime, around sunset, dusk/twilight, nighttime before midnight local time, nighttime on or after midnight local time, around sunrise, dawn/morning twilight
  • Phase of flight: Taxi, takeoff, climb to altitude, cruise altitude, descent, final approach, landing, low-altitude, hover, other

Effect on flight
  • Did the laser interfere with crew duties? Yes (describe), no
  • Did the laser cause a change in flight path? No, minor/non-adverse change, major/adverse change
  • Did the laser disrupt a law enforcement, medical or military mission? Yes (describe), no

Illumination details
  • Did the laser appear to track the aircraft? Yes, no, other
  • Did the laser illuminate any part of the cockpit? Yes, no, other
  • Did the laser shine directly into one or both of your eyes? Did not shine directly, shined a little, shined brightly

Effect on illuminated pilots or crew
  • Choose from a list of vision effects: None, glare, temporary flashblindness or afterimages, blind spot(s), blurry vision, significant loss of night vision, other
  • Choose from a list of physical effects: None, watering eyes, eye discomfort/pain, headache, shock, disorientation or dizziness, other
  • Did you rub your eye after exposure: No, a little, vigorously

If there was an eye exam
  • Type of doctor who did the most comprehensive exam: Retinal specialist, ophthalmologist, optometrist, optician, emergency room doctor/nurse, other
  • List results of the exam

Prior laser knowledge
  • Did you have any prior knowledge or training? None, basic info, detailed specific info on how to “recognize and recover”, simulator training with laser or laser-like exposure, other

From FAA Laser Beam Exposure Questionnaire

UK: CAA issues Safety Notice to pilots, after 2,300 laser attacks in 2011

The Civil Aviation Authority issued Safety Notice SN-2012/005, containing recommendations regarding operational safety to counter laser attacks, on April 13 2012.

Below are highlights from the document, which gives some background information and statistics, and then describes how affected crew should prepare for and react to a laser attack. (Emphasis in bold added by LaserPointerSafety.com.)
Click to read more...

US: FAA clarifies "incidents" vs. "aircraft" laser illumination events

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has clarified how it defines “incidents” in the FAA Laser Incident Database. According to FAA, each time the pilot, crew or (in rare cases) passengers of an aircraft see a laser beam -- either outside the cockpit or coming through the windscreen -- this is one “incident”. According to this criteria, the numbers of incidents in the past five years are as follows: 3,591 incidents in 2011, 2,836 incidents in 2010, 1,527 incidents in 2009, 949 incidents in 2008, and 639 incidents in 2007.

This is important because the FAA Laser Incident Database sometimes listed multiple reports from aircraft on a single spreadsheet row, if these were all in the same location at about the same time. Thus, it might appear that there was one “incident” which was reported by multiple aircraft. (This is how LaserPointerSafety.com interpreted an “incident” prior to February 15 2012.) However, FAA is now saying this was not their intent. While FAA may suspect that a single perpetrator was involved, they cannot be certain and thus to FAA this would be multiple incidents.

For example, in 2011, there were 12 spreadsheet rows that listed two or more aircraft as seeing the same laser. One row listed 5 aircraft, one row listed 3 aircraft, and ten rows listed 2 aircraft. Thus, there were 28-12 or 16 additional incidents according to FAA’s clarified definition.

The statistical analysis at LaserPointerSafety.com here and here reflects how FAA counts incidents.
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US: FAA urges pilots, public to report incidents on new webpage

The Federal Aviation Administration announced a new web page that consolidates information about laser incidents and reporting. As of October 27 2011, the page has the following five sections:
  • Reporting Laser Incidents: How to report an incident, for pilots, air traffic control officials, and the general public
  • U.S. Laser Incidents by Year: A simple table listing incidents each year since 2005
  • Laser Events and Civil Penalties: Press releases about the number of incidents in 2010 and about the June 2011 decision to impose civil fines of up to $11,000. Also, the legal interpretation justifying imposition of the fines.
  • Hazards of Laser Illumination: Links to background information for pilots, and two studies of the issue by FAA’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute
  • Planning Light Shows and Other Outdoor Laser Operations: Information and forms for persons planning to use lasers outdoors

Below is the FAA press release announcing the web page:Click to read more...