Story 2014-03-19 3GD Laser Pointing at Aircraft Increasing

Laser Pointing at Aircraft Increasing

in security on (#3GD)
story imageThe US FBI has been working with the FAA and the Air Line Pilots Association to crack down on people pointing lasers at aircraft. "Reported incidents of laser attacks on aircraft in flight in the US have increased more than 1,000 percent since 2005, according to the FAA, from 283 up to 3,960 in 2013 - an average of 11 incidents a day."

Per the Air Line Pilots Association, " reports of aircraft laser illuminations in the U.S. have increased sharply over the past few years from 2836 in 2010 to 3,960 last year."

Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, 26, now has the dubious distinction of being sentenced to "14 years in federal prison, a term prosecutors believe to be among [California's] longest for such a crime." Rodriguez's gang membership and criminal record were likely factors in his sentence, as was using a laser that is called 13 times more powerful than most laser pointers.

Has anyone seen this happen? Or experienced it as a pilot or aircraft passenger?
Reply 9 comments

So many conflicts (Score: 3, Insightful)

by on 2014-03-19 14:30 (#PA)

On the one hand, I'm excited about the fact that I can buy a very powerful laser quite cheaply. On the other hand, I'm terrified that everyone else can buy a powerful laser quite cheaply.

On the one hand, I'm glad that an offense that could lead to a plane crash and loss of many lives is being dealt with. On the other hand, I'm disappointed that it's being used as a cheap way to slap someone the cops didn't like but couldn't directly pin anything to.

On the one hand, pointing lasers at aircraft can be very serious and should be discouraged as actively as possible. On the other hand, 14 years seems like a very long sentence for someone who probably didn't understand that he was doing something so very dangerous.

Re: So many conflicts (Score: 3, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-03-19 15:09 (#PD)

That's a lot of hands. XD

Re: So many conflicts (Score: 2, Funny)

by on 2014-03-19 16:51 (#PG)

Are you related to Kali?

BTW, what excuse does anyone over 12 have for pointing a laser at anything besides their own eyes, or a whiteboard.. or maybe the floor in front of their cat or dog? I am of course assuming that the guy wasn't developmentally disabled.

Re: So many conflicts (Score: 5, Interesting)

by on 2014-03-19 17:31 (#PK)

FTA: In pleading guilty, Mahaffey admitted he knew it was a crime to point the laser at an aircraft but stated he "just can't help himself from doing stupid things."

That's not the current genius talking, but another brilliant fuckwad who decided to make the shiny on something far up in the sky. He only got 21 months. The guy this post is about, with the 14 year sentence, also sounds like he might have an impulse control problem, though - the article mentions multiple previous criminal convictions. The lawyer tried a "didn't know any better" defense, but it probably didn't play well due to the previous convictions.

I'd like to see some actual data: how many of those laser strikes do result in moments of blindness? Nearly 4000 known events last year, but I don't remember any headlines like "Plane brought down because idiot shined a laser at it". I wonder if the law is not because of potential danger to the pilots, but because of a danger to the plane due to false positives. I'd be willing to bet that it's not that hard to detect laser painting, and that some planes, military for sure and possibly civilian, are equipped to do so. In an area where people have rocket launchers, being aware of laser painting is going to make you jump a mile and raise altitude fast. Having an idiot whose pointer looks like the start of a missile attack would become a bigger deal. I have no info on this, though. Anybody?

Re: So many conflicts (Score: 2, Funny)

by on 2014-03-19 22:22 (#PM)

Can't these attacks be ah, foiled by a translucent protective coating on the cockpit window? I'm imaging something similar to the gold coloured reflective helmet visors used by the Apollo astronauts.

Re: So many conflicts (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-03-20 06:29 (#PS)

So I should go with the added expense of adding a new coating (when was this approved by the FAA btw? You do know that you can't just add anything to aircraft that you feel like. It's not a car.) to keep from being blinded by some assclown on the ground with a laser. Or, maybe, we can continue pointing out that it's dangerous and illegal to point lasers at aircraft and punish the nincompoops who do it?

Re: So many conflicts (Score: 1, Interesting)

by on 2014-03-20 09:50 (#PW)

If the lasers were all the same wavelength (color) then you could probably make a window that would filter that wavelength. Since they're not, you can't.

If this became a really serious problem then I could see regulating laser pointers to be all the same color, but as the other poster pointed out this doesn't seem to be nearly dangerous enough to be worth the attention (and prison sentences) that it's getting.

If this is such a big deal, why haven't we heard all the stories about car accidents caused by people blinding drivers on the highway?

Re: So many conflicts (Score: 3, Interesting)

by on 2014-03-20 18:48 (#QC)

Sorry, but you're wrong. A lot of aircraft, like every helicopter, fly low. 500'-1000' AGL is not a lot of time to react when you've been blinded. Frankly, I'm surprised that there haven't been any fatalities. I hesitate to label pointing a laser at an aircraft as attempted murder, but it's close. You don't do things that you know can seriously injury/kill people or do significant damage to property and then act like it's something minor when you get caught. It's not like it's an unreasonable request. It requires nothing more than for you to not be as asshole. I'm astonished that's there's even a debate.

Re: So many conflicts (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-03-21 03:03 (#QM)

I don't think that there is a debate about whether or not people should be trying to blind pilots, only about the severity of the offense. You say that the pilots don't have a lot of time to react, and I'm sure that's true, but it doesn't address the point that I was making, namely that cars are easier and more plentiful targets, and drivers on a highway have even less time to react than pilots do.