OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (January 12, 2005) -- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta today announced new measures designed to alert and better prepare pilots to handle incidents of lasers being shined at their aircraft and to speed notification about such crimes to law enforcement investigators. The measures are designed to respond to a recent increase in the number of reported laser incidents.
“Shining these lasers at an airplane is not a harmless prank. It is stupid and dangerous,” said Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. “You are putting other people at risk, and law enforcement authorities are going to seek you out, and if they catch you, they are going to prosecute you.”
The measures, which are outlined in an Advisory Circular from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), recommends that pilots immediately report any unauthorized laser events to air traffic controllers. As soon as personnel with the FAA get these reports, they will notify appropriate law enforcement and security agencies through the Domestic Events Network. The changes will provide police with more timely and detailed information to help them identify and prosecute those who are shining lasers at planes.
The new measures also include requirements that air traffic controllers immediately notify pilots about the laser events. If pilots have a laser pointed at them, the circular strongly advises pilots and air crew to avoid direct eye contact given the health and safety risks posed by some types of lasers.
The Department also will be working with the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and others to improve product labeling and better educate the public.
“We are treating lasers in the cockpit as a serious aviation safety matter,” the Secretary said. “We must act now before someone’s reckless actions lead to a terrible and tragic incident.”
The Secretary announced the new measures today because of a recent spike in the number of incidents of laser being shined at airplanes. Since December 23, there have been 31 reported lasers incidents involving aircraft, seven in the past weekend alone. Since 1990 there have been over 400 similar incidents.
The Secretary noted that there are no indications that the people shining lasers at planes are anything other than careless individuals who are using commercially available lasers in a manner that is reckless and illegal. “There is no specific or credible intelligence that would indicate that these laser incidents are connected to terrorists.”
FAA research has shown that laser illuminations can temporarily disorient or disable a pilot during critical stages of flight such as landing or take-off, and in some cases, may cause permanent damage. However, given the relatively small number of incidents, there is no need to require new equipment for aircraft and aircrew at this time, the Secretary said.
The Secretary announced the new measures today during a simulator demonstration of the dangers posed to pilots from shining lasers into cockpits. The demonstration was held at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, OK, where the FAA conducts research on a range of aviation-related health and safety issues. The FAA will continue to conduct research to determine if there are technological solutions for enhancing air crew safety during laser events, the Secretary added.
A copy of the FAA’s advisory circular is available at http://www.faa.gov/newsroom/AC_70-2.pdf.
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