January 25, 2011
Laser Threat to Aircraft Demands Swift Action
ALPA Releases Action Plan for Safeguarding Skies
WASHINGTON–The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), today issued a regulatory, legislative, and public awareness action plan to safeguard the skies from deliberate laser illumination of aircraft and the risk it poses to aviation.
“We have reviewed the FAA’s data released last week and have compared it to our own data and pilot reports. ALPA’s conclusion is that the risk associated with laser illuminations is unacceptable,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president. “Pointing lasers at aircraft in flight poses a serious safety risk to the traveling public, and we are calling on industry and government to take steps to safeguard the skies.”
Pilots are extremely concerned by the record number of laser illuminations of aircraft that occurred last year, many of which were near North America’s busiest airports. The alarming spike announced recently by the FAA puts a sharp, new focus on the safety threat and makes clear that decisive action is needed now from stakeholders across the airline industry.
ALPA urges implementing an immediate response:
Congress must make intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft a federal crime.
The U.S. government must restrict the sale and use of portable lasers that are strong enough to cause injury.
The FAA must increase the size of laser-free zones around airports and prohibit the use of all lasers in such zones.
The FAA must develop and implement improved air traffic control and pilot operating procedures for responding to, and notifying pilots about and re-routing aircraft around, threat areas when reports of illuminations are received.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) must add deliberate laser illumination of all modes of transportation to its list of Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements.
Aiming a laser at an aircraft can create a dangerous situation for pilots, especially when the aircraft is close to the ground during the most critical stages of flight: takeoff and landing. A laser illumination can cause temporary blindness and incapacitation and even permanently damage a pilot’s eyes.
On January 20, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) introduced H.R. 386, the Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers Act of 2011, a bill to make shining a laser at an aircraft a federal crime. Capt. Moak sent a letter to Rep. Lungren on January 19, expressing support for the goal of the laser legislation. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up the bill on January 26. ALPA calls on Congress, the regulatory agencies, and the NTSB to take swift action.
“A threat this serious requires decisive action from every legislative and regulatory angle, but we also need the public to get engaged,” continued Capt. Moak. “Consumers across the country and around the globe have a role and responsibility in ensuring aviation safety by eliminating accidental laser strikes and by being watchful for those who would misuse lasers by shining them at aircraft.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing nearly 53,000 pilots at 38 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org.
CONTACT: Linda Shotwell, 703/481-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org