Lasing Airplanes Ain’t Cool, Kids

This from Military.com’s news page:

A Coast Guard helicopter crew was targeted by an individual with a laser pointer while flying nearly two miles offshore of Oahu, late Tuesday, October 23.

The lased MH-65 Dolphin helicopter was forced to return to Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. The crew’s flight mechanic and rescue swimmer were affected, compromising their abilities to perform duties.

“Whether this was a malicious or just irresponsible act, it is critical that the public be aware of the seriousness of lasing an aircraft,” said Capt. Timothy Gilbride, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point. “Not only does it risk the lives of the aircrew, it can delay rescue missions or disable crews, risking the lives of distressed mariners.”

Laser pointers can cause glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision, all causing a great danger to the crew. If any aircrew member’s vision is compromised during a flight, Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the aircraft must abort their mission. This hinders the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to people in distress, training and homeland security missions.

Additionally, aircrew members are taken off flight duty for a minimum of 24 hours. They must have their eyes dilated and be cleared by a doctor before flying again.

Nothing funny about hazarding aircrews or folks on the ground who might be hurt in the event of a crash.  Further, if the fear of being an inconsiderate asshole isn’t enough, perhaps the legal ramifications might work.  As the article points out, it’s a federal crime, as well as violation of most states’ laws, to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft.

22 Comments on "Lasing Airplanes Ain’t Cool, Kids"

  1. Yes I know this is serious, but haven't we just given the Chinese a cost effective way to disable our aircrews. They only cost about $30 a pop.

  2. Sniper pods, FLIRS and a nice Hellfire. Make lasering aircrafts a terrorist act and give the pilots the right to self defense. Problem solved.

  3. The problem is that there are too many kids out there that think there’s no big deal lasing other people(even in the eye). When i was about ten, a friend of mine brought a laser pointer and begun lasing others around him, i told him that lasing other people might accidentally hurt someone, and guess what? dude point the laser directly at my eye in point blank range, luckily it’s a low powered one or i might be wearing an eye patch today.

  4. Isn't there a filter they can be applied to a/c windows blocking out these lasers at their light wavelengths? I remember the green ones are more notorious than the red but either are bad when used by the simple minded on flying a/c.

  5. Same idea of banning guns is the same about banning laser it wont work bad people will get them and use them for mischievous purposes any way.

  6. What exactly is the image at the top supposed to be? Is that supposed to be some kind of image of a retina affected by a laser? Looks fishy and purely rhetorical, like the egg frying in a pan to compare the effects of drugs on the brain. Wild Bill is onto something: It takes a rather powerful laser to not just be seen, but do damage to the retina, at two miles. I'm not saying lasing a Coastie is cool, but gathering the posse to string up every kid with a classroom pointer is way off track. Also, since it has been observed impairing vision with lasers is not new is military aviation, am I to believe there is *no* simple countermeasure like a selective visor filter or coating on windows, etc.? Am I to believe a $100 million jet can be defeated with something I can buy at a neighborhood convenience store counter?

  7. I'm a corporate pilot and I have been hit twice. Once north of Atlanta and once over eastern Long Island. Both times green, about 2-3 miles distance and under a second exposure each. What does it look like? If you've flown at night then you've seen neighborhoods lit by streetlights and chances are you've seen a bright video billboard, too. The laser is a tiny point of light that appears in a neighborhood but brighter than the brightest billboard. About the same time you realize what it is, the pain starts and you look away.

    It freaking hurts. For hours.

    It's not high-tech military gear or hunting equipment, it is simple damned laser pointers. Yes, they really do shine that far.

  8. I wonder why if it's possible for missiles to be guided by laser, if it's also possible to develop missiles that can home in on the source, like how AGM-88 homes in on radar emitters.

  9. It’s a serious problem, and if left alone we eventually will have a loss of an aircraft with all hands due to a flight crew being blinded at a critical stage of flight. Proposed steps:

    — Quick response airborne police to run offenders to ground

    — Lengthy hard-time prison sentences starting with the first offense.

    — Prominent public service advertisements showing those thus convicted

    “High power laser pointer: 100 milliwatts. Cost off of ebay: $35. Time in prison for shining it at a plane: 10 years before parole.”

  10. You can now purchase a 1W handheld green laser on Ebay for under $200. A 1W laser is what the major mountaintop telescopes use to define air conditions all the way out to space. The advertiser even states you can start stuff including wood on fire with it. Oh yes, it can reach several miles out and still be blinding. The ultimate limit is probably around 5-7 miles dependent on humidity conditions.

  11. So let me get this straight. With a $20 laser pointer, and in the relative haze of the near-shore environment, and from two miles away, someone sent military helicopters back to base? Why the *@#%(& are we spending gazillions of dollars on military hardware when it's this easy to compromise a mission?!

  12. While reading 'one hundred days' (by Adm Sandy Woodward, commander of UK Royal Navy during Falkland war), I learned UK naval vessels had laser pointers installed. They were to be used to try to blind enemy pilots attempting to attack the UK naval vessel.

    I also heard N Korean jets often point targeting laser at USFK chopper crew and so they are always required to wear protective shield.

  13. The public has access to laser's that are farm more potent than most people realize.
    http://www.wickedlasers.com/arctic

    These are the lasers that can do real damage to aircraft at range and are the ones that articles like this refer to. Truthfully, there really isn't a need for the general public to have access to lasers this powerful.

  14. Yeah, but try telling the public that lasers should be outlawed. You will have people screaming about their "rights"

  15. idiots need a life | October 31, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Reply

    to the idiot that said that this is some conspiracy theory that ground laser pointers can't cause eye damage. http://www.eyesfirst.com/archieve/106

  16. We can't even put a mass murderer on trial whose crime was committed in plain sight on a military base three years ago. What makes you think they could even FIND the kid pointing a laser? Oh wait, I know! I bet some Congressman will push a billion-dollar contract for a defense contractor in his district to develop equipment for these aircraft to be able to defend against this.

  17. suggest engineering a preventative or mitigating layer into the aircraft windscreens or opt for one or all aircrews to wear a protective eyeware within certain altitudes. sometimes advancing technology such as through laser is an achilles heel

  18. I suggest that if you hear of someone doing this, you find out if it's true, and if so you beat the shit out of them.

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