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2018 SAE G10OL laser mitigation recommendations (ARP6378™)

An aviation safety advisory committee on June 2 2018 published recommendations about how pilots can recognize and recover from laser glare incidents. The document, Aerospace Recommended Practice 6378, is entitled “Guidance on Mitigation Strategies Against Laser Illumination Effects.”

ARP6378™ has three main parts:
  • A description of how lasers can interfere with pilots’ vision and operational performance, and how pilots can reduce adverse effects.
  • A recommendation for pilot training, including exposure to safe, simulated laser light in a simulator or other realistic flying environment
  • A description of Laser Glare Protection eyewear and windscreen film, with recommendations for whether and how to use these.

The document was developed by the SAE G10OL “Operational Laser” committee over a two-year period. It is available for purchase from SAE for around $80. A three-page preview, which includes most of the Table of Contents except the appendices, is here.

Commentary by LaserPointerSafety.com

ARP6378 recommends that pilots receive training to recognize and recover from laser illuminations. If possible, pilots should experience bright light interference in a simulator so they know what to expect in a laser illumination. A safe, non-laser flashlight like the one below can be used to safely simulate a laser strike.

Pic 2017-01-03 at 1.50.53 PM

ARP6378 appears to be the first consensus document making a detailed recommendation for pilot training, including simulator time. The reason this is important is because pilots can successfully deal with laser illuminations if they know what to do. After all, the "attack" just uses light which can be defended against in most cases by blinking or looking away, and following the procedures listed in ARP6378.

While many pilot organizations have called for user education and restrictions on laser power or ownership, these have not yet been found to work. Rates in the U.S. and other countries have risen even after new laws criminalizing laser misuse or possession. (During 2017, U.S., pilots reported more than 18 laser illuminations every night, on average.)

Further, even if consumer lasers were severely restricted, bad actors could easily obtain and deliberately use lasers against aircraft.

For these reasons, pilots need to understand they are the "last line of defense" as stated in ARP6378. If properly trained, pilots can handle even strong, deliberate laser attacks.

(Note that the document does not address who should have the primary responsibility for requiring training: FAA, aircraft operators, or pilots via pilot associations.)

In addition to recommending training, ARP6378 also gives guidance on whether and when to use Laser Glare Protection such as eyewear or windscreen anti-laser film. For example, first responder pilots going after laser offenders would have a greater need for LGP than commercial pilots who may rarely encounter laser light and only for a short time. The document lists desirable LGP characteristics -- what to look for when considering glare protection — and how best to deploy LGP operationally.

ARP6378 provides pilots with reasons why visual interference (glare, flash blindness) during critical phases of flight can be hazardous, and why serious or permanent eye injuries are not likely and have not been documented by the U.S. FAA or the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Information in this document is especially useful for first responders who may need to continue a mission or a rescue despite laser light interference.

Note that LaserPointerSafety.com editor Patrick Murphy was co-chair of SAE G10OL and had input into ARP6378.

ARP6378’s “Rationale” section

“The greatest single bright-light concern in aviation today is portable hand-held lasers misused by the general public. Bright laser light aimed at the aircraft during night and dim conditions can interfere with pilots’ vision. There is also a small but finite possibility of laser light causing an injury to pilots’ eyes.

“This document provides information about (1) operational considerations, (2) education and training, and (3) whether and how to mitigate these effects using Laser Glare Protection (LGP). In addition, a brief description of devices to locate and report laser illuminations is given in Appendix D.

“Stakeholders include: Pilots and aircrews, aircraft operators, public safety managers such as police and medical officials, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).”

ARP6378’s “Scope” section

“This document is intended to give guidance to users, regulators and persons in the aviation field who may be affected by the potential visual interference effects of lasers aimed at aircraft by the general public. The potential effects include startle (distraction, disruption, disorientation, and operational incapacitation), glare, and flashblindness. This document provides mitigation strategies against such effects, including operational procedures, pilot education, and the use of Laser Glare Protection.

“Prevention of harm from laser eye injuries is discussed but is not a focus of this document, due to the extremely low likelihood of injurious levels of laser light in typical aircraft illumination scenarios.

“Devices for detecting and reporting hazardous laser illuminations are briefly described in Appendix D, but are not a focus of this document.

“Some information in this document may also be useful for non-aviation users, such as persons driving vehicles. Additional information can be found in
ANSI Z136.6, ‘Safe Use of Lasers Outdoors’.”

ARP 6378 appendices

  • Appendix A - Procedures and checklists for pilots (how to respond to laser illuminations in various phases of flight)
  • Appendix B - Summary of the 2003 FAA simulator study
  • Appendix C - Laser Glare Protection examples. Descriptions of eyewear and windscreen film that are commercially available or in development. Descriptions are from the manufacturers; inclusion in ARP6378 does not constitute endorsement.
  • Appendix D - Laser illumination and detection. Descriptions of a few devices used to find and record laser locations. Inclusion in ARP6378 does not constitute endorsement.
  • Appendix E - Committee testing of Laser Glare Protection in mockup cockpits. Description of testing conducted in August 2016 to determine any adverse effects of LGP eyewear on cockpit instrument color recognition. Also tested inexpensive green LED flashlight’s ability to cause glare vs. actual laser glare. Found that the flashlight was an acceptable substitute for training purposes to simulate laser-caused glare. However, it was not an acceptable substitute to demonstrate how LGP eyewear attenuates laser-caused glare.

From SAE ARP6378™, “Guidance on Mitigation Strategies Against Laser Illumination Effects”, published June 2 2018. Available from SAE.org.