As the threat of high powered lasers being pointed at airliners during critical phases of flight continue to be a threat to aviation safety, ALPA and the FBI continue to partner in a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of lasers. So far the campaign seems to be successful in the New York City area with the number of incidents dropping overall in New York airspace. ALPA pilot Captain Robert Hamilton (PSA) highlighted to a CBS news affiliate the danger of a laser beam penetrating an aircraft cockpit and the effect that a laser beam can have on the pilot’s short and long term vision. This growing threat aviation safety and pilot’s’ health spurred ALPA and the FBI to team up to work at the local level to deter and combat those who would knowingly or unknowingly endanger public safety.
The campaign works with FBI field offices in major metropolitan areas to educate the public about the safety risk and consequences of pointing a laser at an aircraft. FBI officers are also staffed on the ground in high risk areas ready to mobilize immediately after an incident is reported. When the campaign started in June there was an immediate drop off in the number of laser incident throughout the country. As part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, shining a laser at an airplane became a federal offence that is punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of $11,000. ALPA was successful in pushing for this change as part of the Act that was signed into law two years ago.
Similar efforts are underway in Canada where recently a laser incident illuminated the cockpit of a WestJet flight. Under Canada’s Aeronautics Act, it is a criminal offense to interfere with the safety of an aircraft. If convicted, offenders face a maximum $100,000 fine, five years in prison or both. However, actively shining a laser at an aircraft is not specifically a criminal offense – yet. ALPA has joined with other stakeholders to urge Canadian Justice and Transport Ministries to stiffen penalties and to work together on a campaign to reduce laser strikes on aircraft. Hear ALPA Canada Board Chairman Dan Adamus’ recent interview highlighting the need for more attention on this growing threat.
For more information on ALPA’s efforts to keep pilots safe from lasers, click here.