It must now be time to consider banning all laser devices available to the general public since the increasing criminal use of them to dazzle and blind pilots will eventually cause a major tragedy – it’s just a matter of time.
The recent dazzling of cockpit crew of the Virgin night flight from Heathrow to New York, forcing them to turn back and abort the flight, is just the latest in a long line of thousands of incidents across the world involving the devices, a few resulting in jail sentences for the offence of shining a laser at an aircraft, where the perpetrators have been caught. Whilst most of those caught have claimed they didn’t know what they were doing, or how dangerous their actions were, how long before terrorists, who will know exactly what they are doing, are found to be using them as an easy way to kill, and elevating the offence to attempted, or if successful, actual murder?
“Harmless” and increasingly powerful laser pointers are used by academics, and by speakers and presenters in our industry who feel the essential need to shine a little blob of bright green light on their far away screens to identify and emphasise their points. This very minor use, arguably pointless and irritating to most intelligent audiences anyway, helps to keep the devices easily available to anyone with a few pounds to spend, including children and immature adults who have used them to (accidentally?) damage the eyesight, and even blind other children, and animals.
As far as is known no member of an audience has yet been injured by a laser pointer used by an academic or presenter but the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that a laser beam accidentally shone onto a reflective surface, such as a mirror, can bounce back into eyes.The loss of what is really just a silly piece of technical gimmickry seems a very small sacrifice when weighed against potential benefits.
And one of those could just be making us all safer in the air.