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PolAir warns about dangers of aiming laser pointers at aircraft after recent strikes
The NSW Police Force Aviation Command is warning the community about the dangers of aiming laser pointers at aircraft after a spike in recent incidents, one involving an officer whose vision was allegedly temporarily impaired.
The Command has recorded about a dozen incidents of laser pointers being aimed at their aircraft and other aircraft flying around Sydney in recent weeks.
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There had been previous reports of laser interference in late June 2020.
From the Nanaimo News Bulletin and CTV News
According to a February 25 2020 news report, "Police say the kids thought it was funny but after speaking with officers, they realized the potential damage they could've done and apologized. Watsonville police say they're now working with the families to get the kids involved in extra-curricular activities."
According to the Oxford Mail, "the extent of his injury is unknown at this time [Feb. 19], although it is expected he will make a full recovery and return to training."
The next night, another training aircraft was hit by a laser in the same general area. No injury was reported.
An investigating Thames Valley Police officer said "The trainee pilot of the first aircraft suffered injuries to the back of his eye as a result of this attack and the injuries may result in him being unable to fulfill a career in aviation. The recklessness of such acts not only endangers the aircraft and all passengers on board, but also those on the ground, as attacks such as this seriously jeopardize safety."
Police were asking anyone with information to contact them.
From the Oxford Mail
UPDATE: According to a February 25 2020 article in the Evening Standard, "Due to the nature of the injuries he is currently unable to fly." The article also described an incident where a green laser was aimed at an RAF C-17 cargo plane near RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, on February 22 2020. This is roughly the same area as where the two training flights were illuminated on February 4 and 5.
Alan Whiteside referred to incidents which occurred over an eight-day period: “Five recent incidents in the Glengormley, Cloughfern, Newtownabbey, Jordanstown and North Shore areas are five too many."
He said "These actions are irresponsible and potentially life threatening. Aircraft crew are responsible for the lives of every passenger on board and any disruption to cockpit operations is simply unacceptable. Those who point laser pens at aircraft need to be apprehended and processed through the courts."
From the Belfast International Airport blog and the Belfast Telegraph
There were two attacks on April 10 2019, two on April 15, one on April 15 and one on April 17.
The Toowoomba LifeFlight Rescue helicopter was flying over the Toowoomba suburb of Glenvale, when the laser light hit the aircraft. There was no indication of any eye effect or injury to the pilots, and no indication of the flight changing or being interrupted.
After the first four events, police put out a “strong media campaign” about the dangers of aiming laser pointers at aircraft. They also asked the public to report any information they might have.
Interfering with crew or aircraft carries a penalty of up to two years in prison, under the Civil Aviation Act.
From Triple M
The aviation authority did not give any absolute numbers of laser incidents, though the statement implied there were multiple illuminations on October 28.
Persons caught aiming lasers at aircraft can be prosecuted under the Solomon Island Civil Aviation Act 2008, section 213. They can be imprisoned for up to 14 years and fined up to SI$300,000 (about USD $37,000).
News of the CAASI warning comes almost exactly one year after an almost identical announcement from CAASI.
One incident occurred at Te Kauwhata at 7:40 pm. The second occurred 43 miles away (straight line; 52 miles by highway) at 8:30 pm, near Te Awamutu. Normally this journey takes about 70 minutes by car via State Highways 1 and 39. So it would appear difficult for a car at one location to make it to the other within 50 minutes.
Police said the pilots “weren’t injured but [were] quite shaken.” One of the attacks lasted 26 seconds.
In addition, there have been other recent incidents where lasers were aimed at planes in Morrinsville, Cambridge and Hamilton.
Police will investigate these laser incidents.
Since March 1 2014, New Zealand has import controls on lasers over 1 milliwatt, and sales are restricted to “authorized recipients” who must apply to the Director-General of Health. However, it does not appear to be illegal in New Zealand to possess high-powered lasers obtained prior to March 1 2014 or which are home-built.
From Stuff. Information on New Zealand laws from LaserPointerSafety.com’s “International (non-U.S.) laws” page.
U.S. officials said the low-level, harassing beams came from fishing vessels and from shore.
U.S. and Chinese military interests have had disputes in the East China Sea in recent years. However, there was no specific indication of whether there was malicious intent, or any organized effort behind the laser incidents. The officials speculated that the lasers could be directed by the Chinese government, or could be “disgruntled Chinese fishermen… who simply want to harass American pilots.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said that flying procedures have not changed due to the laser incidents. She did say pilots are “employing” required laser eye protection.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry called claims that China was responsible for the East China Sea lasers “groundless and sheer fabrications.”
According to news.com.au, “All aspects of the Chinese economy are state-controlled. And its fishing fleets are operated as a militia, working in close concert with Beijing’s navy as it seeks to assert its arbitrary claim to total control of the South and East China Seas…. The waterway is, however, part of a busy sea lane carrying enormous quantities of international trade.”
Disclosure of the East China Sea incidents came about seven weeks after the United States publicly accused China of deliberately aiming lasers between two and ten times at military aircraft in Djibouti, in East Africa. In those incidents, the Pentagon said “military-grade” lasers were used. Two U.S. Air Force pilots received minor, unspecified injuries with no long-term effects.
From the Wall Street Journal, news.com.au and Stars and Stripes
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: About 24 laser/aircraft incidents over nine months from boats or the shore of the East China Sea seems like a plausible number for random, unconnected civilian misuse of commonly available laser pointers.
Consider that the East China Sea has an area of about 500,000,000 square miles. This is roughly equivalent to the combined area of Texas, California and Florida. (Of course the Sea is far less populated even considering seacoast populations.)
In the U.S. in 2017, there were roughly 5,600 reported incidents over nine months, so 24 incidents in the same period is a reasonable number for a less-populated area. Another indication that these may be from civilian misuse is that U.S. officials indicated the East China Sea incidents occurred from “smaller, commercial-grade” lasers which includes readily available low-powered consumer laser pointers.
However, if Chinese fishing fleets are a “militia” as claimed by one news source, then there may be some coordination or central control for the laser attacks.
For a contrary view, see the June 25 2018 column “China is Trying to Bring Down American Planes With Lasers. Time to Get Tough” in the Daily Beast. Author Gordon Chang considers but rejects the unorganized attack hypothesis. He says “it is difficult to believe that Chinese fishermen can pick out American military aircraft from civilian ones without radar or other help. Moreover, state support is the best explanation for the increasing sophistication of the laserings.”
Chang argues that “Washington should consider the attacks, almost certainly directed by Beijing, as attempts to injure pilots and their crews. The American response, therefore, should be immediate in timing and devastating in effect….”
In all of 2016, there were 73 laser incidents at Birmingham Airport, so six incidents over two evenings is especially alarming to the local police and the British Airline Pilots’ Association. Birmingham Airport police tweeted “Laser strikes directed at aircraft are extremely dangerous! They can distract or blind a pilot. It is also an offence under Article 137 Air Navigation Order 2009, endangering an aircraft.”
If the perpetrators can be found, they will face “a hefty jail sentence.”
From BBC News and Birmingham Mail
According to China Daily, “The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the ministry has dismissed such ungrounded accusations from some US officials via official channels. It added that China always firmly honors international laws and regulations in Djibouti, and is dedicated to safeguarding regional security and peace.”
Separately, Reuters reported that “Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the government had conducted ‘serious checks’ and told the U.S. side the accusations were groundless. ‘You can remind the relevant U.S. person to keep in mind the truthfulness of what they say, and to not swiftly speculate or make accusations,’ she told a daily briefing in Beijing.”
From China Daily and Reuters
US & Djibouti: UPDATED - Pentagon says Chinese have aimed lasers at US planes in Djibouti, causing two injuries
Spokesperson Dana White said the reason for the laser activity is unknown, “but it’s serious, we take it seriously.” She said it was “a true threat to our airmen”. The U.S. has protested and has asked the Chinese government to investigate.
Another Pentagon spokesperson, Major Sheryll Klinke, said the C-130 pilots were hit with a “military grade” laser.
On April 14 2018, the US military posted this notice to airmen (NOTAM) on the Federal Aviation Administration website, warning about “unauthorized laser activity” in Djibouti.
The NOTAM was scheduled to expire on June 14.
The NOTAM coordinates (N1135.70 E04303.14) are about 2,400 feet from China’s military base in Djibouti, opened August 1 2017 near Camp Lemonnier.
An article in the quasi-official South China Morning Post referred to “Chinese military observers [who] said the lasers might have been used to scare off birds near the airfield or disrupt possible spy drones, rather than targeting foreign pilots. A Beijing-based military analyst said China has already demonstrated laser weapons being used against drones, at airshows.
China is a signatory to the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, which bans the use of lasers that cause permanent blindness. The protocol does not ban laser dazzlers, which temporarily impair vision but do not cause eye damage. It is also permitted under the Protocol to use lasers to disrupt or damage cameras and sensors such as those on missiles or satellites.
According to The Drive, “As of 2015, Chinese forces had access to at least four different man-portable systems, the BBQ-905, PY131A, PY132A, and the WJG-2002, all of which look like oversized assault rifles or shoulder-fired grenade launchers.”
From The Drive, Janes 360, C4ISRNET, Defense News, South China Morning Post, FAA PilotWeb, and a YouTube video of the May 3 2018 Pentagon press briefing by Dana White. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATED May 4 2018: China’s Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry both denied the U.S. allegations of laser use by China.
UPDATED May 7 2019: An annual report to Congress on Chinese military and security developments does not mention the April 2018 Djibouti laser incidents. It does mention "a few provocative Chinese military actions" but not the alleged Chinese lasers in Djibouti. A news story says the omission is "an apparent bid to preserve the controversial military exchange program with Beijing." From the Washington Free Beacon
US: Man shines laser near Sea-Tac Airport and at police helicopter: "Didn't think it was a big deal"
On March 13 2018, the Sea-Tac control tower notified the helicopter, Guardian 1, that a laser was being aimed at inbound aircraft. The approximate location was the Burien Transit Center bus station. The helicopter was able to locate a man, who pointed a green laser beam at the aircraft. Officers on the ground arrested the man, who was not named in press reports.
According to the arresting officers, the man said he was showing his friend a new laser, and the man was “accidentally” aiming near the airport. The man also said he deliberately aimed the laser at the helicopter but “didn’t think it was a big deal.”
The laser caused a brief interruption of SeaTac Airport flight duties and prevented pilots from looking outside the aircraft.
From the Sky Valley Chronicle, KIRO, and Q13FOX.
In 2016, there were problems with “clubs and party hubs.” The Airports Authority of India asked the to replace lasers with LEDs, and most complied.
The new problem seems to be private parties, which “are more difficult to track and act against.”
The chairman of the Airline Operator’s Committee said "We don't want to spoil the fun for anyone. The only message that needs to go out is that one shouldn't endanger the lives of others for a bit of fun. I am sure once there is awareness about threat to flights, there will be compliance.”
From a December 27 2017 article in the Times of India. See also a story about similar problems in Mumbai.
In a statement the Acting Director of Civil Aviation Brian Halisanau said according to the Solomon Islands Civil Aviation Act 2008 Section 213, offender convicted of committing the use of high powered laser pointers against any operating aircraft would be liable to pay a penalty of SI$300,000 (about USD $37,000) or serve a 14-year term imprisonment.
Halisanau said the warning came as pilots recently reported cases of high powered laser green strike incidents on aircraft arriving and departing Honiara International Airport at night.
He said some of these incidents took place immediately after take-off, and probably before the pilots had fully transitioned onto instrument flight or when the aircraft was established on approach to the runway.
Halisanau added that this was dangerous, as direct eye exposure to one of these laser beams could result in momentary “flash blindness'” for the pilots at a critical stage of the aircraft approach or departure.
The illuminations occurred as they flew over Ashdown Forest, open heathland 30 miles south of London. Police said “We believe the person or persons responsible were located in the Hartfield area.” They asked for anyone with information to call them.
From Crawley News 24
All planes involved landed safely, and there were no reports of injuries [but see Updated information below]. Flight controllers did have to change the approach path so subsequent aircraft could avoid the area.
In a statement, the FAA said there were a total of 11 aircraft in and around New Jersey that reported laser illuminations. [Note: Due to the distances involved, it is not possible that all 11 were struck by the same laser beam.]
- Porter 141 was at 3,000 feet 15 miles southwest of Newark Liberty International Airport
- American Airlines 1472 was 20 miles southwest of Newark Airport
- United Airlines was at 9,000 feet seven miles from Newark Airport
- American Airlines 966 was at 3,00 feet 15 miles south of Newark Airport
- Delta Air Lines 504, Shuttle America 3489 and JetBlue 828 were at 3,000 feet four miles south of the Outerbridge Crossing [this is about 15 miles from Newark Airport]
- JetBlue 2779 did not report its location
- American Airlines 348 was at 9,000 feet over New Jersey heading to LaGuardia Airport
- One aircraft reported it was illuminated when it was over Ocean City [about 100 miles from Newark Airport]
- Republic Airlines 4632 reported it was at 9,000 feet seven miles northeast of Robbinsville [about 30 miles from Newark Airport]. The flight was heading to Pittsburgh, PA
In 2014, there were 28 laser incidents reported at Newark, 37 at LaGuardia and 17 at JFK Airport. As of mid-May 2015, there were 21 laser incidents at Newark, 36 at LaGuardia, and 5 at JFK.
From WWLP.com, CBS New York, My9NJ.com and WABC New York
UPDATED July 16 2015 6:51 PM EDT: ABC News stated that “the pilot of one plane reported having blurred vision, according to federal officials.”