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UK: UPDATED - "Military-strength" laser injures retina of pilot landing at Heathrow

In spring 2015, a pilot in a British Airways plane landing at Heathrow Airport was illuminated by what was assumed to be a “military-strength” laser, according to the general secretary of the British Air Line Pilot’s Association (BALPA). The man was treated at a Sheffield hospital for a burned retina in one eye, and has not worked since the incident, said BALPA’s Jim McAuslan in a November 23 2015 statement.

McAuslan said the identity of the person, who was acting as co-pilot at the time of the incident and thus was not operating the aircraft, could not be revealed at present due to it being reviewed by an “employment tribunal.” British Airways said they are investigating the claimed injury.

McAuslan said that “kids’” lasers could not cause injury but that laser weapons could now be purchased illegally. [Lasers over 1 milliwatt in power are not legal for sale to the general public in Britain.] He said “We’re very concerned about it. When something as strong as this comes on the scene it starts to worry us.”

BALPA is also concerned over a survey of its pilot members, showing that 50% had reported a laser/aircraft incident during the period from November 2014 to November 2015.

According to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, there have been about 4-5 laser incidents reported each day on average, over the past four years. From January 1 to June 30 2015, there were more than 400 laser incidents reported to CAA.

From the Guardian, the Express, the Evening Standard, and the Belfast Telegraph

UPDATED - April 20 2016: Significant doubt has been cast on whether the eye damage was caused by a laser. In January 2016, a medical journal report was published by two ophthalmologists and a laser safety regulator. The report stated that there was no long-term negative effect on vision: “The pilot’s symptoms fully resolved 2 wk later.”

In February 2016 a very knowledgeable expert, who directly reviewed all evidence in the case, told LaserPointerSafety.com he “doesn’t believe it was laser-induced” and that the injury being caused by a laser was “not confirmed, despite what the journal paper says.”

This is confirmed by an April 2016 editorial written by three leading U.K. laser safety experts — including the laser safety regulator who co-authored the January 2016 medical journal report. The experts concluded the case is suspect for a number of reasons; they do not believe laser targeting caused the alleged injury. They wrote: “Only one case of alleged retinal damage to a pilot resulting from laser targeting of aircraft has been reported, although not in a peer review ophthalmic journal. This case is suspect because first and foremost, the metrology and exposure geometry would suggest insufficient energy could have entered the eye to produce irreversible damage and second the fundus anomaly is in the wrong location, the wrong shape and resulted in an extremely transient reported loss of VA [visual acuity] with full recovery.”

Analysis and commentary by LaserPointerSafety.com


If the pilot’s injury was caused by the laser exposure, this would have been the first documented case of a permanent laser eye injury to a civilian pilot. It would also have been the first case where a civilian pilot was unable to continue to be qualified to fly, due to laser exposure while in an aircraft.

There may be military cases of laser eye injury but if so, these would likely be classified and thus not be known to LaserPointerSafety.com. (There was a 1997 case of a military observer who had a claimed eye injury which was later found by laser injury experts to be not caused by his laser exposure.)


Canada: Medical helicopter lased twice over Ottawa

Transport Canada reported that an Ornge medical helicopter was struck twice by a green laser beam at about 2 am on May 30 2014, as it flew five km northeast of Ottawa airport.

There were no reports of the laser’s effect immediately available.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, “a similar 2009 lasing incident left an Ornge pilot with serious eye damage and grounded for several weeks after he was hit by a laser beam while flying at about 2,000 feet over the Gatineau Hills.”

Statistics from Transport Canada list 461 reported laser incidents in 2013 -- an increase from the 357 reported in 2012. The Air Canada Pilots’ Association has asked for criminal penalties and more government control over laser devices.

From the Ottawa Citizen

US: Pilot's video & research helps FBI find & convict Chicago-area man

A pilot’s videotaped research helped the FBI find a laser pointer in a door-to-door search, in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield. The pointer’s owner, Jason G. Heeringa was arrested in 2010. On July 12 2011 the 29-year-old pleaded guilty in a plea bargain arrangement to misdemeanor counts of aggravated assault and battery.


Two years probation, $250 fine and 240 hours of community service

Essential to the conviction was a video analysis done by a pilot who had been illuminated multiple times by Heeringa.

Click to read more...

Grenada: Increasing incidents

A number of pilots have reported lasers being aimed at their aircraft, reports the Grenada Airports Authority. The incidents occur when landing at Maurice Bishop International Airport.

Violators could be charged with interfering with air crew duties. The Authority is looking for the laser perpetrator(s), and has posted notices in newspapers stating that shining lights at aircraft is “a security offense”. Also, several pilots have filed complaints with the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority.

From the
Virgin Islands News Online