The senior Senator from New York has established himself as an aviation expert—safety, airport funding, ATC site selection, hospital helipad locations, ban on drug lords and private investigators from receiving UAV “licenses” from the agency and geofencing UASs. The below article involves a proposal by Sen. Schumer with which aviation can agree! His target is lasers [“laser” stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation] being pointed at aircraft and trains.
At a press conference and in a letter to FDA Commissioner, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the Senator urged “the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expeditiously revise its regulations to limit the public availability of high-powered, long-range green laser pointers. There has been a tremendous increase in the incidence of these lasers being pointed at planes and locomotives, which threatens of everyone aboard, as well as the safety of the public.”
The Congressional missive cited 21 U.S.C. §360kk which gives the agency the authority to regulate electronic products as “necessary for the protection of the public health and safety.” He also noted that the FDA has issued regulations for use of laser products, 21 C.F.R. §§1040.10(b)(5)-(11). Those rules only compel the inclusion of warning labels on the product. While perpetrators convicted of pointing a laser at a plane can be sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, they are often hard to track down following an incident.
The Schumer letter concludes, “I implore the FDA to use its authority over laser products to establish new regulations that would prevent individuals from obtaining green lasers for non-professional use. Pilots and travelers alike stand to benefit from tighter regulation on the sale of high-powered, long-range lasers.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has recorded more than 5,300 laser strikes over the first nine months of 2016. That’s an increase from the more than 2,800 laser strikes reported in 2010. Whether the FDA has any emergency powers to ban such dangerous products (21 USC §390 (iii)(a)(5), (b)) is a question for FDA lawyers, but the answer to the question, whether urgent “ban” on such laser us is justified, is YES.
Good job, Senator Schumer!!! There has been a lot of lamentation about lasers; you have found a real short-term solution. More importantly, the Senator put the critical question to the right authority and urged action.