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Under certain conditions, laser light or other bright lights (spotlights, searchlights) directed at aircraft can be a hazard. The most likely scenario is when a bright visible laser light causes distraction or temporary flash blindness to a pilot, during a critical phase of flight such as landing or takeoff. It is far less likely, though still possible, that a visible or invisible beam could cause permanent harm to a pilot's eyes. Although laser weapons are under development by armed forces, these are so specialized, expensive and controlled that it is improbable for non-military lasers to cause structural damage to an aircraft.
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation". The first laser was built in 1960 by Theodore H. Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories, based on theoretical work by Charles Hard Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow.
Flash blindness is a visual impairment during and following exposure to a light flash of extremely high intensity. The bright light overwhelms the eye and gradually fades, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.
Landing is the last part of a flight, where a flying animal, aircraft, or spacecraft returns to the ground. When the flying object returns to water, the process is called alighting, although it is commonly called "landing", "touchdown" or "splashdown" as well. A normal aircraft flight would include several parts of flight including taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, descent and landing.
Pointing a laser at an aircraft can be hazardous to pilots,and has resulted in arrests, trials and jail sentences. It also results in calls to license or ban laser pointers. Some jurisdictions such as New South Wales, Australia have restricted laser pointers as a result of multiple incidents.
New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In September 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.
In addition to lasers, other bright directional lights such as searchlights and spotlights can have the same dazzling, distracting, and flashblinding effects.
Lasers are used in industry and research, such as in atmospheric remote sensing, and as guide stars in adaptive optics astronomy. Lasers and searchlights are used in entertainment; for example, in outdoor shows such as the nightly IllumiNations show at Walt Disney World's Epcot. Laser pointers are used by the general public; sometimes they will be accidentally or deliberately aimed at or near aircraft.
Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon without making physical contact with the object and thus in contrast to on-site observation, especially the Earth. Remote sensing is used in numerous fields, including geography, land surveying and most Earth Science disciplines ; it also has military, intelligence, commercial, economic, planning, and humanitarian applications.
IllumiNations was a series of nightly fireworks shows at Epcot before IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth was created in 1999 for the Millennium Celebration.
The Walt Disney World Resort, also called Walt Disney World and Disney World, is an entertainment complex in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, in the United States, near the cities Orlando and Kissimmee. Opened on October 1, 1971, the resort is owned and operated by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, a division of The Walt Disney Company. It was first operated by Walt Disney World Company. The property, which covers nearly 25,000 acres, only half of which has been used, comprises four theme parks, two water parks, twenty-seven themed resort hotels, nine non-Disney hotels, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, including the outdoor shopping center Disney Springs.
Lasers are even used, or proposed for use, with aircraft. Pilots straying into unauthorized airspace over Washington, D.C. can be warned to turn back by shining eye-safe low-power red and green lasers at them.At least one system has been tested that would use lasers on final approach to help line up the pilot on the proper glideslope. NASA has tested a Helicopter Airborne Laser Positioning System. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has tested laser-projected lines on airport runways, to increase visibility of "hold short" markings. Because of these varied uses, it is not practical to ban lasers from airspace.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is a governmental body of the United States with powers to regulate all aspects of civil aviation in that nation as well as over its surrounding international waters. Its powers include the construction and operation of airports, air traffic management, the certification of personnel and aircraft, and the protection of U.S. assets during the launch or re-entry of commercial space vehicles. Powers over neighboring international waters were delegated to the FAA by authority of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The photos at right flash because most incidents are of flashes and not of steady illumination. In accidental illuminations there may be just one or a few flashes. Even in deliberate illuminations, it is difficult to keep a hand-held laser focused on a moving target, so there will be a series of longer flashes.[ citation needed ] With helicopters at close range, it is possible to have a more or less continuous light. The flashes shown greatly exaggerate the duration of a laser flash and use green rather than less visible red light. With a plane traveling hundreds of miles per hour and a laser beam size of only a meter or so, flash durations would be measured in thousandths of a second.[ citation needed ]
There are some subjects which aviation safety experts agree pose no real hazard. These include passenger exposure to laser light, pilot distraction during cruising or other non-critical phases of flight, and laser damage to the aircraft. The main concerns of safety experts are focused on laser and bright light effects on pilots, especially when they are in a critical phase of flight: takeoff, approach, landing, and emergency maneuvers.
There are four primary areas of concern. The first three are visual effects that temporarily distract or block pilots' vision. These effects are only of concern when the laser emits visible light.
The three visual effects above are the primary concern for aviation experts. This is because they could happen with lower-powered lasers that are commonly available. The fourth concern, eye damage, is much less likely: it would require specialized equipment not readily available to the general public.
It is extremely unlikely that any of the four elements above would cause loss of the aircraft.
The exact hazard in a specific situation depends on a number of factors.
The U.S. FAA has studied some of these factors.They conducted research using pilots in flight simulators to determine the effects of laser exposure on pilot performance; results were released in August 2003 and June 2004.
The graphic (right) illustrates laser safety concepts.For example, it shows that the areas of most concern—eye damage, flash blindness and glare—occur relatively close to the aircraft. The distraction risk covers the longest hazard distance, but also presents the least concern. The photos in the graphic also give an idea of what the visual effect looks like to the pilot, at various distances. While the distances given are exact, the laser's brightness is in fact falling off slowly and so effects diminish continuously with increasing distance.
Also, the weaker effects are part of any stronger effect. Even if a laser does not cause eye damage at 25 feet, it can still cause flash blindness, glare and a distraction.
For any given laser, the relative distances shown here may change. For example, an infrared laser can be an eye hazard for hundreds of feet, but presents no flash blindness, glare or distraction hazard. Because of this, each laser must be analyzed individually.
To give another example, of a more powerful laser—the type that might be used in an outdoor laser show: a 6-watt green (532 nm) laser with a 1.1 milliradian beam divergence is an eye hazard to about 1,600 feet (490 meters), can cause flash blindness to about 8,200 feet (1.5 mi/2.5 km), causes veiling glare to about 36,800 feet (7 mi; 11 km), and is a distraction to about 368,000 feet (70 mi; 110 km). [ better source needed ]
There are a number of ways that laser users, regulators and pilots reduce the potential hazard from outdoor laser use. These measures include:
Police have begun using helicopters to patrol and seek out people using lasers to disrupt aviation.
Some measures have been proposed to protect aircrews including goggles and windscreen filters.These may work in theory (especially against known wavelengths) and may be useful in some situations such as military operations. However, these measures may not be suitable, practical or recommended for widespread civil air operations.
In the United States, laser airspace guidelines can be found in Federal Aviation Administration Order JO 7400.2, Chapter 29 "Outdoor Laser Operations", and bright light airspace guidelines are in Chapter 30 "High Intensity Light Operations".
In the United Kingdom, CAP 736 is the "Guide for the Operation of Lasers, Searchlights and Fireworks in United Kingdom Airspace."
For all laser users, the ANSI Z136.6 document gives guidance for the safe use of outdoor lasers.While this document is copyrighted by ANSI and is relatively costly, a flavor of its recommendations can be seen in NASA's Use Policy for Outdoor Lasers.
The U.S. FAA has established airspace zones. These protect the area around airports and other sensitive airspace from the hazards of safe-but-too-bright visible laser light exposure:
For non-visible lasers (infrared and ultraviolet), the irradiance at the aircraft must be eye-safe—below the Maximum Permissible Exposure level for that wavelength. For pulsed visible lasers, the irradiance at the aircraft must be both eye-safe and must be at or below any applicable FAA laser zone.
In the UK, restrictions are in place in a zone that includes a circle 3 nmi (5.6 km) in radius around an airport, plus extensions from each end of each runway. The runway zones are rectangles 20 nmi (37 km) in total length and 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) wide, centered about each runway.
In the U.S., operators of outdoor lasers are requested to file reports with the FAA at least 30 days in advance, detailing their location and laser power. It is permitted to use lasers whose output exceeds the limits of these zones, if other control measures are in place. For example, spotters could be used to watch for aircraft, and turn off the laser if a potential conflict is sighted. The FAA does not approve or disapprove requests, as it does not have the regulatory authority for this, but rather indicates whether it objects or does not object.[ citation needed ] If the laser use is for a show or display, approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health is required. A prerequisite for this approval is a letter of non-objection from the FAA.[ citation needed ] Laser activity in a given area is communicated to pilots before their flight via a NOTAM.
UK laser operators report outdoor laser, searchlight or firework operations at least 28 days in advance.
A key group inside the U.S. working on laser and aviation safety is the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) G-10T, Laser Safety Hazards Subcommittee. It consists of laser safety experts and researchers, pilots and other interested parties representing military, commercial and private aviation, and laser users. Their recommendations have formed the basis of the FAA laser and bright light regulations and forms, as well as standards adopted in other countries and by the ICAO.
The ANSI Z136.6 standard is the "American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers Outdoors."The Z136.6 committee has worked closely with SAE G-10T and others, to develop recommended safety procedures for outdoor laser use.
Until the early 1990s, laser and bright light aviation incidents were sporadic. In the U.S., NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System showed only one or two incidents per year.The SAE G-10T subcommittee began meeting around 1993 as the number of incidents grew. Almost all of the incidents were known or suspected to be due to outdoor laser displays. Almost all of the concern was over potential eye damage; at the time visual effects were felt to be a minor consequence.
In late 1995, a number of illumination incidents occurred in Las Vegas due to new outdoor laser displays. Although the displays had been approved by the FDA as eye-safe for their airport proximity, no one had realized that the glare and distraction hazard would adversely affect pilots. In December 1995 the FDA issued an emergency order shutting down the Las Vegas shows.
Within the SAE G-10T subcommittee, there was some consideration about cutting back or banning laser shows. However, it became apparent that there were a large number of non-entertainment laser users as well. The focus shifted to control of known laser users, whether shows or industry/research. New policies and procedures were developed, such as the FAA 7200 Chapter 29, and Advisory Circular 70-1. Although incidents continued to occur (from January 1996 to July 1999, the FAA's Western-Pacific Region identified more than 150 incidents in which low-flying aircraft were illuminated by lasers),the situation seemed under control.
Then in late 2004 and early 2005 came a significant increase in reported incidents linked to laser pointers. The wave of incidents may have been triggered in part by "copycats" who read press accounts of laser pointer incidents. In one case, David Banach of New Jersey was charged under federal Patriot Act anti-terrorism laws, after he allegedly shone a laser pointer at aircraft.
Responding to the incidents, the Congressional Research Service issued a study on the laser "threat to aviation safety and security."Because there was no federal law specifically banning deliberate laser illumination of aircraft, Congressman Ric Keller introduced H.R. 1400, the "Securing Airplane Cockpits Against Lasers Act of 2005." The bill was passed by the U.S. House and Senate, but did not go to conference and thus did not become law. In 2007, Keller re-introduced the bill as H.R. 1615. Although passed by the House in May 2007, it was not acted on by the Senate before the end of the 110th Congress and never became law.
On March 28, 2008, a coordinated attack took place using four green laser pointers aimed at six aircraft landing at Sydney airport in New South Wales, Australia.As a result of this attack plus others, a law was proposed in mid-April 2008 in New South Wales to ban possession of handheld lasers, including low-power classroom pointers. The Australian state of Victoria has had a similar ban since 1998, but press reports state that it is easy to buy lasers without a permit.
On February 22, 2009, a dozen planes were targeted with green laser beams at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.An FAA spokeswoman said there were 148 laser attacks on aircraft in the U.S. from January 1, 2009 to February 23, 2009.
During the July 2013 protests against the presidency of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt and later celebration of his removal, thousands of protesters and revelers aimed laser pointers at government helicopters.
On February 2016 a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to New York JFK Airport was forced to turn back when a laser beam was shone into the cockpit.The incident led the British Airline Pilots' Association to call for lasers to be classified as offensive weapons.
In the first seven months of 2018, United States Armed Forces pilots were targeted with laser points in multiple regions, but particularly in the Middle East.
Instrument flight rules (IFR) is one of two sets of regulations governing all aspects of civil aviation aircraft operations; the other is visual flight rules (VFR).
Visual flight rules (VFR) are a set of regulations under which a pilot operates an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going. Specifically, the weather must be better than basic VFR weather minima, i.e. in visual meteorological conditions (VMC), as specified in the rules of the relevant aviation authority. The pilot must be able to operate the aircraft with visual reference to the ground, and by visually avoiding obstructions and other aircraft.
A laser lighting display or laser light show involves the use of laser light to entertain an audience. A laser light show may consist only of projected laser beams set to music, or may accompany another form of entertainment, typically musical performances.
Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Articles related to aviation include:
Airspace is the portion of the atmosphere controlled by a country above its territory, including its territorial waters or, more generally, any specific three-dimensional portion of the atmosphere. It is not the same as aerospace, which is the general term for Earth's atmosphere and the outer space in its vicinity.
A head-up display or heads-up display, also known as a HUD, is any transparent display that presents data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. The origin of the name stems from a pilot being able to view information with the head positioned "up" and looking forward, instead of angled down looking at lower instruments. A HUD also has the advantage that the pilot's eyes do not need to refocus to view the outside after looking at the optically nearer instruments.
An Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) has existed since February 10, 2003, around the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area to restrict air traffic near Washington, D.C.
Aviation safety means the state of an aviation system or organization in which risks associated with aviation activities, related to, or in direct support of the operation of aircraft, are reduced and controlled to an acceptable level. It encompasses the theory, practice, investigation, and categorization of flight failures, and the prevention of such failures through regulation, education, and training. It can also be applied in the context of campaigns that inform the public as to the safety of air travel.
Air Canada Flight 797 was an international passenger flight operating from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Montréal–Dorval International Airport, with an intermediate stop at Toronto Pearson International Airport. On June 2, 1983, the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 operating the service developed an in-flight fire behind the lavatory that spread between the outer skin and the inner decor panels, filling the plane with toxic smoke. The spreading fire also burned through crucial electrical cables that disabled most of the instrumentation in the cockpit, forcing the plane to divert to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Ninety seconds after the plane landed and the doors were opened, the heat of the fire and fresh oxygen from the open exit doors created flashover conditions, and the plane's interior immediately became engulfed in flames, killing 23 passengers who had yet to evacuate the aircraft.
A traffic collision avoidance system or traffic alert and collision avoidance system is an aircraft collision avoidance system designed to reduce the incidence of mid-air collisions between aircraft. It monitors the airspace around an aircraft for other aircraft equipped with a corresponding active transponder, independent of air traffic control, and warns pilots of the presence of other transponder-equipped aircraft which may present a threat of mid-air collision (MAC). It is a type of airborne collision avoidance system mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization to be fitted to all aircraft with a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of over 5,700 kg (12,600 lb) or authorized to carry more than 19 passengers. CFR 14, Ch I, part 135 requires that TCAS I be installed for aircraft with 10-30 passengers and TCAS II for aircraft with more than 30 passengers.
Laser safety is the safe design, use and implementation of lasers to minimize the risk of laser accidents, especially those involving eye injuries. Since even relatively small amounts of laser light can lead to permanent eye injuries, the sale and usage of lasers is typically subject to government regulations.
A laser pointer or laser pen is a small handheld device with a power source and a laser diode emitting a very narrow coherent low-powered laser beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light. Power is restricted in most jurisdictions not to exceed 5 mW.
A dazzler is a non-lethal weapon which uses intense directed radiation to temporarily disable its target with flash blindness. Targets can include sensors or human vision.
A non-towered airport is an airport without a control tower, or air traffic control (ATC) unit. The vast majority of the world's airports are non-towered. In the United States there are close to 20,000 non-towered airports compared to approximately 500 airports with control towers. Airports with a control tower without 24/7 ATC service follow non-towered airport procedures when the tower is closed but the airport remains open, for example at night.
Landing lights are lights, mounted on aircraft, that illuminate the terrain and runway ahead during takeoff and landing.
Automatic dependent surveillance—broadcast (ADS–B) is a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be tracked. The information can be received by air traffic control ground stations as a replacement for secondary surveillance radar, as no interrogation signal is needed from the ground. It can also be received by other aircraft to provide situational awareness and allow self-separation.
Northwest Airlines Flight 85 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in the United States to Narita International Airport in Japan. On October 9, 2002, the Boeing 747-400 carrying out the flight experienced a lower rudder hardover event, when the flight was in proximity to Anchorage, Alaska. A rudder hardover is when the aircraft's rudder deflects to its travel limit without crew input. The 747's hardover gave full left lower rudder, requiring the pilots to use full right upper rudder and right aileron to maintain attitude and course.
Northwest Airlines Flight 188 was a regularly scheduled flight from San Diego, California, to Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 21, 2009. The flight landed over one hour late in Minneapolis after overshooting its destination by over 150 miles (240 km) because of pilot errors. As a result of this incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revoked the pilot certificates of the involved pilots and the National Transportation Safety Board issued recommendations to air traffic control procedures and changes in the rules for cockpit crew and air traffic controllers. The incident also caused American lawmakers to move to prevent pilots on U.S. airliners from using electronic devices while taxiing or flying. Changes to flight deck automation have also been suggested as a result of the incident and prototype designs that could mitigate errors leading to similar incidents have been described.
In March 2019 aviation regulators and airlines grounded the global fleet of 394 Boeing 737 MAX passenger airliners after two nearly-new aircraft crashed within four months and ten days, killing all 346 people aboard both flights. The accidents befell Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019. In the aftermath, Ethiopian Airlines was first to ground the MAX, effective the day of its accident. The next day, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the certifying agency for the aircraft, publicly affirmed its airworthiness, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China announced the first regulatory grounding. Most other regulators and airlines banned the airplane in the next two days. On March 13 the FAA was one of the last regulators to ground the airliner, citing similarities between the accidents shown in refined flight tracking data and aircraft crash debris.