[Homestead] Laser threats to aircraft pilots

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Wed Sep 29 13:28:50 EDT 2004

In addition to shoulder-mounted heat-seeking or radar-directed 
missiles.  It's getting increasingly a more dangerous world out there.  
These are low-powered lasers, high-powered lasers can slice an aircraft 
like a banana.. Join the Paranoia Club to which every active-duty or 
retired military pilot belongs.

    Laser injures Delta pilot's eye

By Bill Gertz
Published September 29, 2004
A pilot flying a Delta Air Lines jet was injured by a laser that 
illuminated the cockpit of the aircraft as it approached Salt Lake City 
International Airport last week, U.S. officials said.
    The plane's two pilots reported that the Boeing 737 had been five 
miles from the airport when they saw a laser beam inside the cockpit, 
said officials familiar with government reports of the Sept. 22 
incident. The flight, which originated in Dallas, landed without further 
incident at about 9:30 p.m. local time.
    A short while later, however, the first officer felt a stinging 
sensation in one eye. A doctor who examined the pilot determined that he 
had suffered a burned retina from exposure to a laser device, the 
officials said.
    Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokeswoman Yolanda 
Clark confirmed the incident, but declined to provide details.
    "TSA is aware of the incident, and we are working with the airline 
in conducting an investigation to try and determine the cause of the 
incident," Miss Clark said.
    She would not say whether TSA considers the incident a possible 
security threat to commercial aircraft. Other officials said the 
incident was serious enough that the pilot will be unable to fly for at 
least a week.
    "So far, it doesn't sound like there will be permanent [eye] 
damage," one official said.
    The identity of the pilot could not be learned, and Delta spokesman 
Anthony Black declined to comment.
    Officials were unsure of the source of the laser and could not 
determine whether the exposure was deliberate or accidental.
    John Mazor, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, said 
commercial pilots have been exposed to laser illumination.
    "The Air Line Pilots Association has received reports in the past of 
incidents where lasers penetrated cockpits and, in at least one case, 
caused injury," Mr. Mazor said.
    Several years ago, a pilot flying into a Western airport was hit by 
a light from a laser light show. The causes of the other incidents are 
not known, he said.
    Asked whether a laser aimed at pilots could cause a plane to crash, 
Mr. Mazor said: "I think that's highly improbable. In every case in the 
past, the flights landed safely."
    Military personnel also have suffered eye damage from laser 
    In one case, Naval Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly and Canadian helicopter pilot 
Capt. Pat Barnes suffered eye injuries hours after an aerial 
surveillance mission to photograph a Russian merchant ship that had been 
shadowing the ballistic-missile submarine USS Ohio in Washington state's 
Strait of Juan de Fuca.
    The Navy recently turned down an appeal from the Defense Department 
inspector general to award Cmdr. Daly a Purple Heart for the incident. 
Cmdr. Daly, who retired from the service last year, continues to suffer 
eye pain and deteriorating vision.
    During congressional testimony in 1999, he warned of laser threats 
to pilots.
    "Numerous documented cases regarding the use of lasers against 
aircraft, civilians and military personnel exist, as well as does an 
all-too-lengthy list of the injuries that have resulted from the 
accidental and intentional misuse of these devices," Cmdr. Daly told a 
House Armed Services subcommittee.
    He noted that incidents of lasers being directed at commercial 
airliners during takeoff and landings have raised fears that "this in 
fact may be a new form of terrorism."
    "Lasers are easily obtainable and can be self-manufactured weapons 
in the terrorist arsenal, which essentially can effect a soft-kill 
solution and leave virtually no detectable evidence," he said.

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