The mishandling of laser gadgets poses a severe threat to the aviation industry. According to Nakagawara, Wood and Montgomery (2012), aviators are specifically susceptible to laser illuminations while carrying out low-level flights during the night. The irresponsible and/or malicious utilization of laser equipments can endanger the lives of both the passengers and the flight crews. As Balpa (2012) states, the recent rise in laser incidences in the UK, directed towards landing aircrafts indicates that they will continue to threaten the aviation industry. In August 2011 for instance, numerous aircrafts operating in Liverpool, East Midlands and Gatwick were illuminated by strong laser lights by people on the ground. Though no direct eye contact with the beams were reported, the possibility of a temporary vision loss was real and the outcome could have been worse. Temporary vision caused by a laser light is associated with glare, flash blindness and after-image. This paper presents a summary of an article related to laser hazards in navigable airspace, in addition to my personal response to it.
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Summary of ‘‘Laser Attacks on Planes Are Surging, Warn Aviation Officials’’ by Helen Carter
Nearly 2,000 laser incidents being shone in the direction of aircrafts were reported in 2011 in the UK, up from twenty incidences in 2005. Due to this significant increase in laser-related plane attacks, the Civil Aviation Authority has issued a warning of a possible worldwide surge in laser attacks (Carter, 2012). According to Carter, the number of aircraft attacks, including laser incidents in 2011 were as follows; 153 incidents in Heathrow airport, 148 in Manchester, 143 in Birmingham, 107 in Glasgow, and 90 in John Lennon airport in Liverpool. A crew member at John Lennon airport for instance, got temporarily blind as the plane landed after a laser light was shone towards the aircraft. In another instance, a jumbo jet that had been hit by a laser beam dropped to 300 meters as the pilot was attempting to correct the error. Liverpool incidents on the other hand, peaked in the summer of 2011 during a 5-week period in which thirty different laser incidences were reported by pilots, who were passing on top of residential regions as they got ready for landing (Carter, 2012).
According to a spokesman of the Civil Aviation Authority, there is presently a global surge in laser incidents being intentionally shone at aircrafts as they approach the airports for landing. He added that the comparatively low cost of lasers and their availability on the internet have significantly contributed to laser attacks, which according to him, is a serious problem that has worsened in the previous three years. For instance, a sixteen-year old child was charged a fine of £250 following his admission to shining a laser pen into an easyJet’s cockpit in February 2010 (Carter, 2012). The jet was from Belfast, heading to Liverpool. He had bought the pen on eBay for only, £8. According to Carter (2012), the police in collaboration with the aviation industry are doing everything within their power to combat the problem. The Civil Aviation Authority is pleading with any person who witnesses a laser illumination being shone close to an airport especially at night, to contact the nearest police station without delay.
According to Carter, shining a laser illumination towards an aircraft/ airplane in flight has been a criminal felony since 2010. The public’s assistance is vital to CAA in stopping further possible dangerous aircraft attacks, and that is why they are urging people to report to the police any cases of lasers they witness being pointed at airplanes. The CAA said that the aviation industry in the UK has generally enjoyed an outstanding safety record, mainly because of its open culture with regards to reporting cases. The spokesperson for John Lennon airport stated that there were a small number of incidents involving flights, which were also far between. He added that the airport was exceedingly proud of its security record for the 2007-2011 period, which included nearly 400,000 aircraft movements transporting more than twenty five million passengers (fare-paying). Therefore according to the spokesman, the CAA report regarding aircraft attacks in John Lennon airport should be placed into context because it comprises of all types of incidents, some very serious, while others less serious, in addition to those incidents that take place outside the airport, but are related to the aircraft that is heading to, or originated from Liverpool.
According to Carter, easyJet and Ryanair flights have been targeted while they approached John Lennon airport to land at altitudes of 150 meters and below. In addition, an Airbus jet was aimed at twice, resulting in the impairment of vision of the pilot. According to the pilot, the laser illuminated the cockpit significantly affecting the night vision of the flight crew. In another case, the captain of the flight had to undergo a medical examination following a laser light directly striking is him in his right eye.
This is indeed a very informative article with regards to laser illuminations targeting landing aircrafts. From this piece, it is evident that laser attacks not only threaten the lives of crew members, but also the passengers, thus making it a serious issue that ought to be addressed effectively to prevent future potential loss of lives. Laser equipments have numerous benefits as well as side effects, and therefore, it is vital that people choose to use them for the right reasons. I wonder why someone would intentionally illuminate a laser light on an aircraft knowing well that it negatively affects the vision of the pilots, which endangers the lives of everyone on board. I believe that public sensitization regarding the effects of laser on the aviation industry and harsh punishments on those found guilty of having intentionally illuminated landing aircrafts might help to reduce the rising cases of laser-related aircraft incidents. In general, this is a great read that I would not hesitate to recommend to anybody with an interest in the aviation industry.
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