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Old 01-24-2011, 04:35 PM #33
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

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12:09, hmm ... the post shows 8:48 PT as its post-time, and your loc shows Michigan ...
I am confused now, but EST is -5:00 and PT is -8:00 (I think?). I know for a fact that my post was at 12:09 EST, but if you thought I was in the Upper Peninsula then you would be about correct because the UP is central time. Mabye about 20 min off even then though... .


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Old 01-24-2011, 04:45 PM #34
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

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I am confused now, but EST is -5:00 and PT is -8:00 (I think?). I know for a fact that my post was at 12:09 EST, but if you thought I was in the Upper Peninsula then you would be about correct because the UP is central time. Mabye about 20 min off even then though... .
Yeah, assumptions are bad Oh, and off-topic ... I should probably delete these
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Old 01-24-2011, 08:32 PM #35
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

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Shadetree,

Just an aside: The "The windows are on the top, how can a laser get into them from underneath" is one of the recurring "blue-in-the-face" comments that comes up every time this subject is broached on these forums.

I get exhasperated re-telling it. (In a month or so there will be another such thread, where someone will say 'but the cockpit windows are on the top!" I guarantee this.) -- But it's pretty simple.

When we're in the cockpit, we have to see the ground, as we have to navigate and land. We do not just see "from the horizon up". This would make flying impossible. In reality, only a 20-25 degree "shadow" of ground is obscured from our vision in the cockpit.

The only way the oft-broadcasted "But the windows are on the TOP!" premise would work, is if you were directly under the aircraft and shining the laser straight up.

And even if that was the case, it would not be several seconds later, and the plane would be at a vulnerable angle.

I'm a pilot, and I've been illuminated; specifically over the CU Denver Auraria Campus.

I have known several people whose first remarks upon discovering powerful handheld lasers was simply, "I bet I could hit a plane with this thing!" -- It is not uncommon. I don't think it's malicious. I think they simply don't think it through. To them, a plane is a "far away object", and they want to "see how far the laser goes". I don't think it goes much further than that.

I mean, I meet people who actually think that ATC controls the movement of the plane. It' s an unknown to most, and i think that the reason that illumination incidents are increasing is simply because lasers are cheaper and more available, and a plane is generally the "furthest thing away someone can try to hit".

(It does however get a bit more pernicious, I think, when most of the hits take place at airports right during landing and takeoff. That's someone 'hoping to see an exciting result', and I firmly believe that this sort of behavior is in the sociopath corner of the spectrum.)

Please read my other posts about light gun signals, navaid lights during night flying, why window coatings won't work, criticality during night landings, dark adaptation, etc.

It really, really, really, really is a very real issue, and pilots are not just having a good ol' time to get lasers banned.

Please check the sig below this line -- it should be obvious that I am not trying to conspire to limit lasers.
No worries, I've completely reversed my opinion on the window placement issue. All it took was some live video from the co-pilots seat and a little thought.
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Old 01-24-2011, 09:17 PM #36
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

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Well, if it really IS a serious hazard, i suppose there should be some countermeasure developed.

I think most of the laser hits on planes are dumb kids playing around, not people actually trying to endanger the plane. But what if someone were to use a laser purposely to interfere with air traffic, as an act of outright terrorism? If it were actually that dangerous, would it be feasible for a terrorist to buy a $1000-ish laser with good specs, and use that against a plane on a difficult (weather, night) landing or take-off?

On landing you may be able to do a go around and divert, but on take off this would mean that the pilot would have to fly blind and continue if the laser is switched on slightly before or even after the plane is airborne.

Personally i think it cannot be that dangerous, otherwise it would have been succesfully attempted at some point... probably in areas where conflict, civil wars and such are more common.
Except for that I'm starting to see this as a real danger, I was thinking the same thing. But in a third-world setting, it seems a bit complicated and ineffectual when an RPG or heat-seeking missile is already available in third-world markets with more 'bang for your buck'. Plus the laser is a beacon that shows where you are standing in a situation where you can expect live munitions to be fired at you.

I think we have only just arrived at the point where a handful of thoughtless criminals may be asking themselves just that sort of question. It's a dumb idea, but so's shooting a rifle out of the back of a car into a shopping mall.

Some kind of counter-measure is called for. Even if it means android pigeons that are programmed to dive bomb into laser beams and track a suspect until their police handlers can show up.
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Old 01-25-2011, 12:24 AM #37
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

I was thinking third world scenarios, or the conflict in the middle east. Would it, for example, be possible to endanger aircraft landing or departing from Ben Gurion for nearby palestine territories? In a context like that the argument of law enforcement being effective will likely fail, and neither will the neighbours be ratting the offender out.

As far as bang for the buck goes: A laser can be used multiple times, which is a clear benefit. Also, they are not all -that- expensive. Even for $200 you can get yourself a decently powered green with acceptable beam specs. In such countries that compares to the street price of a machine gun. An anti-aircraft missle like an SA-7 would be much more expensive, and work only once (though its chances of downing the aircraft are good).

Practical examples of terrorists shooting down airliners are limited as it is... in 2003 they shot down a DHL A399 cargoliner using a SA-14 that took off from Baghdad, and it micraculously managed to land with all crew alive - despite lacking one of the left engines and most of the left wing surface.

This is a particularly expensive weapon though, and if a 200 mW pointer had a 1 in a million chance of downing a plane, using those would be more cost effective.
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Old 01-25-2011, 12:43 AM #38
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

The issue isn't "will it down the plane in a giant fireball" though. It's an issue of interference and endangerment.

Terrorists yes are going to want to 'get the job done', no, they're not going to use laser pointers -- but that doesn't really disprove that pointing lasers at aircraft isn't dangerous or isn't a problem.

Terrorists don't want to distract, flash blind, disorient or confuse pilots, they want to blow the plane to bits. Doesn't mean that distraction, flash blindness or disorientation isn't very dangerous to air travel.
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Old 01-25-2011, 01:00 AM #39
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

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Originally Posted by Benm View Post
I was thinking third world scenarios, or the conflict in the middle east. Would it, for example, be possible to endanger aircraft landing or departing from Ben Gurion for nearby palestine territories? In a context like that the argument of law enforcement being effective will likely fail, and neither will the neighbours be ratting the offender out.

As far as bang for the buck goes: A laser can be used multiple times, which is a clear benefit. Also, they are not all -that- expensive. Even for $200 you can get yourself a decently powered green with acceptable beam specs. In such countries that compares to the street price of a machine gun. An anti-aircraft missle like an SA-7 would be much more expensive, and work only once (though its chances of downing the aircraft are good).

Practical examples of terrorists shooting down airliners are limited as it is... in 2003 they shot down a DHL A399 cargoliner using a SA-14 that took off from Baghdad, and it micraculously managed to land with all crew alive - despite lacking one of the left engines and most of the left wing surface.

This is a particularly expensive weapon though, and if a 200 mW pointer had a 1 in a million chance of downing a plane, using those would be more cost effective.
Perhaps, it's just too soon to wonder why there haven't been any lasers being fielded by terrorists.

Currently the natives are being introduced to lasers via our foot soldiers tactic of giving a warning at checkpoints by beaming a fairly high-power green into the eyes of anyone who fails to stop immediately. Our troops report this as being very successful at preventing unnecessary shots fired, so this tactic is becoming widely adopted.

It's simple, we are teaching the natives to shoot people in the eye with a hand-held laser. They are rapidly learning about what kind of dis-orientation may result, it's only a matter of time before they start to turn that around and use it against us.

I've heard rumors that our troops want even higher power lasers for non-lethal applications. That will rapidly introduce the idea to the natives that the highest power they can obtain is what they should use.

I've seen various footage from european news, such as those Italian riots a while back where the police were being targeted with high-power green lasers from the crowd. I'm sure the terrorists have seen this too and took note.

It won't take much to think of using several lasers from different locations to harass aircraft, maybe while also shooting missiles.

But all this is a military question, and I don't think it applies to how the domestic scene here should be dealt with. After all, we can't have Warthogs idling around the skies of LAX waiting to hail depleted uranium on any laser sources!
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Old 01-25-2011, 01:36 AM #40
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

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Originally Posted by aryntha View Post
The issue isn't "will it down the plane in a giant fireball" though. It's an issue of interference and endangerment.

Terrorists yes are going to want to 'get the job done', no, they're not going to use laser pointers -- but that doesn't really disprove that pointing lasers at aircraft isn't dangerous or isn't a problem.

Terrorists don't want to distract, flash blind, disorient or confuse pilots, they want to blow the plane to bits. Doesn't mean that distraction, flash blindness or disorientation isn't very dangerous to air travel.
Terrorism is about getting a job done, indeed... and doing so in the most cost effective method available with little regard for your own life, let alone that of innoncent others.

Using a laser to deprive a pilot of his visual senses fits that bill exactly. A terrorist would juse a $200 'tool' to endanger a $100 million aircraft. That downing might be due to pilot distraction alone, but as long as it crashes, it would be considered a success.

The first thing people need to understand about terrorism is efficiency. If you use a $200 laser to target $100 million aircraft, it is considered extremely effective if it works only 1 in each 1000 attempts. Provided it would eat some batteries too, you could do 1000 attempts for $300, causing on average one enemy loss worth $100 million.

People tend to underestimate the efficiency of terrorism really. If a terrrorist fires a $200 qassam missile that is intercept by a $1 million patriot missile defence round, that amounts to a win of $999.800 for every shot fired. Obviously no target would be hit, but firing a thoiusand of such missiles would cost the enemy a billion, at an investment of only $200k... which makes the tactic worthwhile in the long run.

All in all, this convices me that if laser pointers were effective in crashing only 1 in 50.000 planes, terrorists would opt to use them - since that amounts to a profit.
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Old 01-25-2011, 01:57 AM #41
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

Now in Tron legacy he uses a Laser to burn a security camera Image sensor and it only disrupts the image for a few seconds. If you shot a high powered laser into a video camera wont it fry the sensor for a lot longer possibly frying it for good?
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Old 01-25-2011, 02:05 AM #42
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

Results on that may vary. You could be fairly sure to fry several pixels in the camera, but rendering all of them useless is anohter matter.

Then again, just putting a garbage bag over that camera would be 100% effective at a cost of $0.10 or so... pick your logical approach
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Old 01-25-2011, 02:15 AM #43
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

Well he was trying to do it from long range without being seen, and what I found the funniest is that the guard whacked the monitor showing the feed to fix it, he didnt even touch the camera .
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Old 01-25-2011, 02:27 AM #44
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

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All in all, this convices me that if laser pointers were effective in crashing only 1 in 50.000 planes, terrorists would opt to use them - since that amounts to a profit.
This line of reasoning still doesn't really convince me that it's "not dangerous" or "isn't a problem", though?

I mean, really -- I got illuminated while PIC over Denver. It was a problem... "Terrorists don't use them", IMO, doesn't really amount to "proof of safety".
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Old 01-25-2011, 03:56 AM #45
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

I'm confused at what power level causes blindness. According to the article about the ZM-87:
"Power output: 15 mW, 5 pulses per second, at two wavelengths."

15 mW?! Blinding distance of almost 2 miles! How can that be? If that's all it takes, there should be a lot of blind people from all the "5mW+" laser pens floating around.

From Wicked's Arctic specs:
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The Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance (NOHD) is the distance that a laser beam does not cause immediate or long term damage to a person. Calculated based on a 0.25 second accidental (unaided eye) exposure.

For the Arctic (about 750-800 mW), that distance is 149 meters (489 feet for us Yanks). For the 200 mW WL E3 green, that distance is 67 meters.


I can understand the hazard of distraction or temporary loss of night vision, but how is someone with a typical handheld laser pointer going to blind (or even injure the eyes of) a pilot? The distance and divergence seems to rule it out, much less the question as to how you will keep the laser targeted on the pilots eyes in a moving aircraft at nearly any altitude.
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:12 AM #46
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

"Permanent blinding" isn't the issue.

This thread has once again settled into repeated explanations and justifications as to why it's not a big deal. I assure you, as did LSRFAQ, that this is not a big conspiracy. If it wasn't a problem, it wouldn't be a problem. Really.

I know it may not feel like it, but the justification posts are not doing anyone any favors.

Seriously, what do you hope is going to come from this? The FAA saying "Oh, hey, we were wrong -- 15mW is fine, go at it, guys."?

The terminal concensus seems to be, whenever this comes up, "continue trying to prove that aircraft illumination by lasers not a big deal."

But, you know, there's going to be some idiot who peruses this thread quickly and comes out of it by setting out on a saturday night and telling his friends, "Oh, shining lasers at planes isn't a big deal, I read on the internet that its like.. impossible to hit them." - and on he'll go, pointing into the sky.

Government regulators; FDA/FAA/CDRH folks will read these posts (and yes, they DO) and take it to mean that a good portion of hobbyists here are "pro" plane illumination, especially when they RATM about it being some kind of conspiracy or phantom issue made real.

The media, worst of all, can and would and perhaps will characterize "internet forums where laser enthusiasts talk" as a place where "people seem to justify the act of pointing at planes". The spin won't be good.

So once again I have to implore that people stop trying to justify it away. It is a big problem. It's getting to be a bigger problem, especially with 445. And that has to be accepted and we as a community have to tell people to not do it. Without exception. Every time. Or regulators will make SURE nobody does - or at least make it as hard as possible to not do so.


And if something ever DOES happen, nobody's going to care about the person who said it never could, based on "windows on top / shaky hands / they should make a coating / divergence " etc. They'll just care that A) it happened and B) people in the most public face of our community didn't try real hard to prevent it, they just tried to say it wasn't that big of a deal.

The net of this is that it'll accelerate an impending ban, not keep it at bay.
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Last edited by aryntha; 01-25-2011 at 05:35 AM.
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:51 AM #47
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

This should be a non issue here....Don't Do It...Don't Condone It...Don't Argue semantics...Period...End of Story..
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Old 01-25-2011, 11:55 AM #48
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Default Re: FAA: Laser incidents soar, threaten planes

Quote:
Originally Posted by aryntha View Post
This line of reasoning still doesn't really convince me that it's "not dangerous" or "isn't a problem", though?

I mean, really -- I got illuminated while PIC over Denver. It was a problem... "Terrorists don't use them", IMO, doesn't really amount to "proof of safety".
It is no guarantee indeed - i was just curious about why lasers arent used by terrorists against planes if they pose such a huge danger. I'm certainly not denying there is -some- danger, but it seems to be very difficult to find out how much.

The aviation industry is usually very serious about safety, and they test failure modes of all components (and crew). This also involves risk analysis, and can aswer questions about what risk is present in what scenario.

If you were to ask the FAA: "what is the chance of a fully loaded 747 crashing when a goose flies into the #3 engine at an altitude of 1000 feet at take-off", the industry would be able to give you an estimate... combining engine testing results, 3-engine flight results, and landing with excess weight and/or dumping fuel.

If you ask what the chances are using a laser at a specific power, wavelength, distance and divergence, the answer is just "dangerous" without any quantification whatsoever. Therefor i think this must be researched.
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