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South Africa: Incidents are increasing; pilots express concern

South Africa is experiencing about 12 incidents a week as of April 2011, according to the Air Line Pilots Association of South Africa. The most-affected airports are at Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Lanseria. Apparently, there is no central reporting requirement or agency in South Africa, so “the figure was probably much higher”, according to an ALPA SA spokesperson. She also characterized the incidents as “pranks” but said due to the danger, criminal charges should be pursued.

A representative of the Civil Aviation Authority said that laser misuse violates two sections of the Civil Aviation Regulations, and can be punished with a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 10 years. (There was an arrest in 2010 during the World Cup, when 35-year-old Yusuf Ebrahim temporarily blinded a helicopter pilot.) The CAA representative said the Authority would consider new standards or regulations if they were recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

To report a laser illumination incident in South Africa, CAA said to email information to cahrs@caa.co.za or fax it to 011 545 1453.

From Independent OnLine Scitech. An IOL story about Yusuf Ebrahim’s first court appearance is here.

Press release from the Air Line Pilots Association of South Africa

Dated: 12/May/2010 12:00:00 AM

The Air Line Pilots’ Association South Africa would like to express its concern with the increased projection of laser light into the air in particular the lasers used in the vicinity of aerodromes can seriously affect the visual performance of pilots. Members of the Association are reporting increased incidents of sudden and intense bursts of light, sometimes even being deliberately shone at aircraft in the airspace in and around aerodromes. The public should be informed and made aware that they can be arrested when engaging in such unlawful activities

The use of lasers for outdoor entertainment is increasing and it is becoming apparent that certain flight hazards are associated with temporary vision loss during critical phases of flight. When such laser displays are projected into airspace and intercept aircraft, unplanned exposure may cause pilot distractions or create temporary vision impairments. These effects may pose significant flight safety risks in particular during approach and landing operations.

The danger of light emitted by lasers is the fact that the light is focused by the lens of the eye onto a very small spot on the retina. It is this focusing of the laser beam that makes the eye more sensitive to laser radiation and in the USA, shortly after take-off a pilot on a commercial flight was hit in the eye by a laser beam. He was completely flash-blinded in his right eye and suffered impaired vision in his left eye. He was unable to see for 30 seconds and for another two minutes was unable to interpret any of his flight instruments.

Such an event has obvious safety implications in imperiling the lives of aircrew, passengers and those living in the vicinity of aerodromes.

Marius Santos live on radio RSG, to listen to his interview on Laser Incidents (click


Sonia Ferreira
General Manager

27 11 394 5310
27 82 826 5007