A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser useHow to reduce incident severity:
For airlines and the FAA
The pilot is the “last line of defense” in preventing an incident from turning into an accident. Even if it were possible to miraculously eliminate the majority of laser pointer incidents from ignorant persons deliberately targeting aircraft, there still may be accidental, unintended exposures. Also, there may be persons who deliberately would want to target an aircraft.
Mandatory pilot education
For this reason, it is essential that pilots learn how to recognize and recover from a laser illumination. Airlines and the FAA can get this to all pilots by providing accurate, pilot-focused information. This can be mandated by the airline or by FAA.
At a minimum, pilots can be provided with written information, similar to information found on this page.
The Air Force in February 2009 completed a 21-minute video about the laser pointer problem. This video, or the shorter, 10-minute edited version, should be mandatory viewing as part of pilots’ continuing education.
In addition to the written and/or video material, we suggest that pilots be exposed in a flight simulator to a bright light flash. This can be done during both initial training, and at least once during recurrent training. This does NOT have to be from a laser source. Tests have shown that for demonstrations to pilots and others, it is possible to safely simulate a laser strike using an inexpensive, readily available LED flashlight.
Already, pilots can be exposed to simulated lighting flashes. It should not be too difficult to come up with guidelines or a protocol for simulated laser flashes from an ordinary flashlight.
By safely experiencing a flash in the simulator, pilots will gain confidence that they will be able to handle a laser or bright light situation.
Laser Event Recorders
There has been some use of “Laser Event Recorders” in cockpits. One such device is manufactured by Optra Inc. of Topsfield, Mass. A June 2010 press release about the FBI buying LER’s for cockpit use is here. Another company with laser event detection recorders is Sensing Strategies Inc. They have devices for cockpit use, for airport control tower use, and for use in and around airports that can help locate the laser source.
For more information
In January 2011, FAA issued a 4-page PDF brochure, “Laser Hazards in Navigable Airspace”, which is intended for media, pilots and others. It describes the hazards of laser light, FAA flight zones, FAA regulations and publications, and what pilots can do if they experience an incident.
A similar, earlier FAA perspective is in the article “Blinded by the Light: A Look at Cockpit Laser Illumination Events” in the July/August 2009 issue of FAA Aviation News. The link is to an online PDF of the entire magazine; scroll to magazine page 28 to find the article.