Lasers shone into pilots eyes - how?

Recently in Sydney there have been a number of cases of lasers being shone into pilots eyes as they come into land at the airport. These are the bright green laser pointers, not the red ones. Apparently the lasers can temporarily blind the pilot.

What I cannot understand is how anyone could manage to shine a laser into a pilots eyes through the aircraft window. When landing, doesn’t the aircraft nose block most of the ground vision so that only the runway and beyond is visible to the pilot? Or are they looking down at the ground in front of the runway?

And if the aircraft was banking, then I would expect it would be extremely difficult to follow the plane with a shaky laser pointer from a distance - if they were lucky, the perpetrator may get a quick flash in to the side of the pilots eye.

Whats going on here? How can pilots of large passenger planes be susceptible to laser pointers?

When I fly a C-130 (well a simulator we got in my building), I see acres of city to the left and right of my nose. The windows are built for visibility after all.

(The Australian case is very disturbing. A number of lasers from different points all targeting the same aircraft. Almost as if someone was running a rehearsal.)

What building do you work in that just happens to have a C-130 simulator? I want to work there.

What should the people who do this be charged with if they are caught? Attempted murder? I would think so.

I work (or worked, given my current contract problems) at the Training Wing at KAAB in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The US (at least) has all sorts of laws about interfering with flight crews.

Probably the assault and batter statues would also apply. Toss in some reckless endangerment.

Depending on how well focused the laser is and how far it is being projected, the size of the beam can be as large as a meter across. The intensity of the beam will be diminished due to dispersion, but can still be bright enough to greatly compromise a pilot’s night vision.

Someone was caught doing this in Tacoma, Washington near McCord AFB. He was using a military surplus laser that was much stronger than the kind sold in stores. The intensity was enough to affect the pilots vision for a week or two. The feds hauled him off and no one has heard much about it since.

These all fall under the skyjacking statutes, and are a federal charge. Throw in a possible terrorism charge on top of it and you’re in for a world of hurt.

And I certainly would think screwing with a passenger jet meets that definition.

Here is one such incident that happened in New Jersey.

It’s similar here in Australia, where the OP is. The charge is “Interfering with a flight” or something like that (forget the actual wording), and it’s not like being charged with stealing a chocolate bar. The penalties are definitely going to ruin your day (and likely the next decade or so too), and in light of these incidents, they’re looking at stiffening the penalties yet more.

Forward visibility is just fine. You can see miles of ground between the aeroplane and the runway while on approach.

Basically the laser spreads with distance (they aren’t perfect lasers) and the relative motion of an aeroplane at a distance is quite small.

I went to a star gazing tour a while back and the astronomer used a laser pointer to point out various stars and planets and so on. He could point it at a small piece of sky quite accurately.

A YouTube video of an approach taken from the cockpit. Bear in mind that the person videoing is probably sitting in the jumpseat a little aft of the pilot’s seats. The pilots would have better visibility over the nose than the camera.

By coincidence I’ve just read an internal incident report from my company about having a green laser pointed at the crew. They were 15 miles from the aerodrome and the laser was shone from beside the flight path rather than in-line with it.

Naive/dumb question- how important is the vision of the pilot in landings- is it criticial, or just an added benefit? You hear that planes are able to land “on their own”. (large planes here as opposed to Cessnas. etc.)

ETA: I see now that this can cause long term blindness, not just the momentary blindness from the direct beam. I can see where a blind pilot would be a problem.

[Larry the Cable Guy]
Now, that’s funny right there, I don’t care who you are.

Looks at username. Looks at post. Glares at user.

I usually advise people against glaring directly into the 1920s Style “Death Ray”. YMMV.

…adds “You’re not 1920s Style “Death Ray’s” proctologist” to list of Life’s Blessings.

It’s critical. Most modern airliners can land on their own if the airport has the right equipment (none of Australia’s airports do) and if the pilots have set it up for an autoland. Without knowing they’re going to be zapped by a laser, they probably wouldn’t setup for an autoland unless they need to for currency or the visibility is particularly bad, in which case laser attacks become moot.

I’m considering changing my username to 1920s Style Cake Array. I understand that given a choice between cake or death*, most people opt for cake and I feel that I’d be of more use to the world if I had a change of focus from death to cake. Then of course the danger wouldn’t be blind pilots but fat pilots.

*YouTube link

But the cake is a lie…