Known Aviation Safety problem: hitting aircraft cockpits with a laser
GAO says FAA should do more to prevent- long list of education and public information efforts in place
Need: greater on the ground laser strike identification; FAA not have enough bodies
Technically knowledgeable about aviation volunteers- CIVIL AIR PATROL?
Below is an article reviewing a GAO report finding deficiencies in the FAA’s protection of flights from very dangerous laser strikes. These phenomena are well known to the aviation safety agency, and it has been struggling to educate, deter and arrest the use of lasers to blind pilots.
Safety regulation, here and around the world, depends on records and observable events—e.g. maintenance paperwork or ATC capturing altitude deviations. Another aspect of FAA surveillance is location—most of the incidents occur somewhere along aeronautical tracks- airports, hangars, training facilities, manufacturing sites, in flight (usually tracked by ATC and captured in computer memory).
Lasers are not limited to such paths and as explained below, the filing of reports, by pilots, is a fraction of the total number of incidents. (for reasons unknown here.) Here is the form—
The FAA does not have the staffing to cover all possible sites from which the miscreants will point their lasers; so that form of identifying such a laser attack is not likely to be successful.
The GAO report suggests (see below) greater coordination among the FAA, FBI and GAO and such a step will help. Further, the FAA lists a litany of proactive actions it has implemented. As this diagram suggests, more eyes on the ground appear necessary–
It’s not just a matter of more bodies, but this surveillance task requires some level of expertise- identifying the laser site by long and lat (GPS), spotting the aircraft targeted (by type/model and N number) plus the basics- date, time weather, etc.
There may be a nationwide source of volunteers who would come to this task with aviation safety knowledge and a preexisting dedication to aviation safety- the Civil Air Patrol, which already has a long list of knowledgeable aviators
[note: CAP has an exhaustive library of the FAA’s UAS rules.]
“Civil Air Patrol is America’s premier public service organization for carrying out emergency services and disaster relief missions nationwide. As the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP’s vigilant citizen volunteers are there to search for and find the lost, provide comfort in times of disaster, and work to keep the homeland safe. Its 56,000 members selflessly devote their time, energy, and expertise toward the well-being of their communities, while also promoting aviation and related fields through aerospace education and helping shape future leaders through CAP’s cadet program.
“Volunteers serving America’s communities, saving lives, and shaping futures.”
Always prepared, both in the air and on the ground, members of Civil Air Patrol perform emergency services for state and local agencies as well as the federal government as the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and for states/local communities as a nonprofit organization. Ever vigilant, these true patriots make a difference in their communities, not only assisting in times of disaster but also searching for the lost and protecting the homeland. “
Assisting the FAA in the battle against Laser Assaults against civil, governmental and military aviation may or may not be within CAP’s authority. It should be stressed that the role would be observation, not apprehension of these law violators!!!
Might this work Maj. Gen. Edward D. Phelka, Chief Executive Officer/National Commander of Civil Air Patrol ?
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, Aug 18 (Reuters) – The number of reported incidents involving aiming of lasers at U.S. airplanes hit a record in 2021, according to a federal government report, which also said regulators should do more to address the problem.
The Government Accountability Office said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA page on laser issue) should strengthen its efforts to address the practice that regulators say can pose a serious safety issue. Reported laser incidents rose 42% in 2021 to 9,273.
Intentionally aiming lasers at aircraft poses a safety threat to pilots and violates federal law. “Many high-powered lasers can incapacitate pilots flying aircraft that may be carrying hundreds of passengers,“ the FAA said.
The FAA asks pilots to complete laser pointing incident questionnaires upon landing. But GAO said, “FAA received responses for about 12% of the 8,221 laser incidents that occurred over a recent one-year period.”
The FAA said on Thursday that in order to reduce attacks, “the agency conducts outreach to educate the public about the hazards of lasers aimed at aircraft.”
The agency noted it can issue fines of up to $11,000 per violation and $30,800 for multiple laser incidents. The agency said it issued $120,000 in fines for laser strikes in 2021.
The FAA developed a software visualization tool “that shows laser-strike data from 2010 to 2021 and highlights trends by geographic area, per capita data, time of day and year.” (link to page and below charts ↓)
The FAA said it “also works closely with other federal agencies and state and local governments to report and investigate incidents, help apprehend suspects, and advocate for the prosecution of offenders.”
The GAO said FAA “does not consistently share collected information with law enforcement” and noted the FAA, FBI, and the Food and Drug Administration, which has regulatory authority over lasers, were in an interagency group to address laser safety concerns until its dissolution in 2015. GAO said the Biden administration should consider re-establishing this group.
The FAA noted a 36-year-old Philadelphia man was sentenced in April to one year in prison for shining a laser pointer into a Philadelphia Police helicopter.
A Mississippi man was sentenced to probation in April after pleading guilty to aiming a laser pointer at aircraft following reports that numerous planes flying into Memphis were being struck. The FBI said there were 49 green-laser strikes on aircraft, mainly FedEx Corp (FDX.N) planes, between January and July 2021.
Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Diane Craft and Matthew Lewis
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