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?
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.
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.
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.
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.