A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

UK: CAA issues Safety Notice to pilots, after 2,300 laser attacks in 2011

The Civil Aviation Authority issued Safety Notice SN-2012/005, containing recommendations regarding operational safety to counter laser attacks, on April 13 2012.

Below are highlights from the document, which gives some background information and statistics, and then describes how affected crew should prepare for and react to a laser attack. (Emphasis in bold added by LaserPointerSafety.com.)
  • In 2011, there were 2,300 laser events recorded on the CAA’s Mandatory Occurrence Reporting database. CAA notes that “the actual number of attacks may significantly exceed this figure” since CAA is “not always informed of an attack.”

  • Laser events happen primarily “either when aircraft are carrying out civil safety duties (e.g. police helicopters) or when they are carrying out approaches to airfields (e.g. commercial passenger flights).” In addition, air traffic control towers have been targeted.

  • Section 2.3 reads: “The main problems with a laser attack are that they are always sudden, very bright, distracting, and can cause temporary visual disturbance for some time after the attack. So far, there have been no documented cases anywhere in the UK where civil aircrew have suffered permanent eye damage as a result of an attack. Although this possibility cannot be totally discounted, current knowledge and experience suggests that permanent eye damage is unlikely. This is principally because the power levels available to hand-held lasers are low and the distances from the laser to the aircraft or tower together with the presence of tower and cockpit transparencies provide some protection from the beam. Nevertheless, the possibility of permanent eye damage at some time in the future due to higher power laser availability cannot be discounted. The CAA has published a self-assessment tool designed to help those exposed to a laser to make an immediate assessment of their vision and determine whether or not they need to consult an eye specialist.”

  • The Mitigation Strategies section gives advice to crew members and aerodrome controllers, regarding how to respond to a laser attack. The document notes that “these actions should be supported by crew/controller education, training and preparation.”

  • The Before Flight section reads: “Assume that at some stage in your career your aircraft or control tower will be the subject of a laser attack or inadvertent laser illumination. Be reassured by the fact that no crew have suffered permanent eye damage from a laser attack. Prepare yourself for the sudden shock that such an attack can have by reading this and similar communications and by ´┐╝following the advice in the links provided at the end of this notice. Finally, view the training material provided in the links and view the video on laser attack. Operators should establish Laser Awareness Training and detailed SOPs for crews and ATC controllers, as appropriate (this should use a structured approach and be comparable to guidance already published).”

Near the end of the CAA laser attacks Safety Notice are links to additional resources: