A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
Tips and training for pilots
“Recognize and recover” procedures
All pilots should know how to recognize and recover from a laser incident. This is especially important for helicopter pilots, who often fly low and slow. Fortunately, the procedures are relatively simple. We have listed these procedures on our page How to reduce incident severity: For pilots.
Pilot protective eyewear
In addition, you may wish to consider having protective eyewear (anti-laser glasses) available, so it can be donned in situations where laser activity is taking place. The page Laser Glare Protection eyewear for pilots discusses this further.
If you are looking for a more formal training program, Night Flight Concepts has an online computer-based training resource. According to the company, “the Laser Armor Aviation Laser Defense Training Program helps aircraft operators to teach aircrew members the capabilities, limitations and preventative measures required to respond to a laser strike. The program addresses the need for education about laser strikes and covers mitigation techniques most effective in the public safety sector of aviation.” A PDF brochure on the laser training program is available. The cost is $125; the course takes about an hour and has a test at the end.
In April 2013, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department released a video entitled “Laser Strike”. They use this for training, and it may be useful to other law enforcement and aviators.
For demonstrations to pilots and others, you can safely simulate a laser strike using an inexpensive, readily available LED flashlight.
What can happen if you are directly exposed to laser light
In less than 1% of FAA-reported laser incidents, a pilot reports an eye effect or injury. The section “U.S. - Eye effects and injuries” on this page lists these eye effects and injuries.
In 20% of these cases, a pilot sought medical attention. As noted elsewhere in this website, as of January 2017 there have been no documented or proven cases of permanent retinal damage reported in civil aviation.
What to do if laser light is aimed at your aircraft
First, report the incident. See the information on the page How to reduce incident severity: For pilots.
If you have been directly exposed (the light went into your eye), read the information on the page If you are hit by a laser. One of the key documents listed on that page is a Laser Injury Guidebook produced by the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. It is intended specifically for pilots and flight surgeons needing to evaluate a laser exposure.
For more information
An aviation advisory committee in June 2018 published recommendations specifically for pilots, going into detail about the above topics. The document, Aerospace Recommended Practice 6378 “Guidance on Mitigation Strategies Against Laser Illumination Effects” is available from SAE International for $78. For anyone involved in keeping pilots safe from laser illuminations, ARP6378 is a worthwhile resource.