back to article Aussie laser-pointer dazzle attacks on airliners: Bad

Australian politicians are demanding restrictions on the ownership of laser pointers in the land down under. The banning calls follow a series of widely-reported incidents in which individuals on the ground have attempted to dazzle pilots of commercial aircraft making approaches to landing. A particularly troublesome dazzling …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Thumb Down

WTF?

Seriously who the fuck thinks blinding airline pilots on approach to landing is funny! Hanging’s too good for em!!

0
0
Black Helicopters

Preventing the Impossible

Oh dear. Another piece of mindless government intervention. Do they really think it is possible to shine a handheld laser into someone's eyes over a distance of about a mile??

Why are stupid people allowed to make the rules?

0
0
Coat

Debt of Honour

Tom Clancy used just this scenario - green lasers used by Spec Ops to dazzle pilots on landing to cause crashes in his book Debt of Honour. The book is 14 years old but I wonder how many of these people took inspiration from it?

0
0
Ian

It's amazing

That the public might prefer lethal force to non-lethal...

0
0
Jay
Happy

NIghtclub.

Didn't something like this happen at a US airport and turn out to be the lights from a local nightclub?

0
0
(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Debt of Honour

Ban it. It's the only way. And just to make sure, get rid of all the Dan Browns too.

0
0
Coat

I asked him if he wanted a vegemite sandwich...

I believe 'Land down under' is in fact the correct nomenclature for Australia

Now can't get men at work out of my head...

0
0

@AC

The story says that these things have been reported, so someone must have reported them. I'd assume, therefore, that it's the airlines and pilots who are having the issues otherwise who'd know that some retarded fuckwit on the ground is doing this? Flight landings *have* been aborted as a result of it.

Therefore, it *must* be possible.

Policing it, however... nightmare. When you consider there must be thousands of the things out there already.

0
0
Linux

Enviro-terrorists

Who do you think would be behind this type of activity?

Green-peace, IFAW, and other such groups that believe they have the right to force others to believe what they believe. They would do this to stop plane and thus decrease the amount of flights, who cares who dies in the process. They are willing to throw acid at boats, and illegally cross borders then state they had thier human rights violated by people protecting themselves.

Save the world, kill all enviro-terrorists. (SARCASM)

0
0
Silver badge

How unlucky can you get?

This sounds to me like the sort of thing you see in hollywood movies. One group of people armed to the teeth with high-powered automatic weapons up against the "good guy" with a hand-gun. During a pause in the action where the baddies have shot off hundreds of rounds - all to no avail, our hero rolls out from behind cover and while moving fires off three or four rounds. Each one hits a different target and instantly kills him, while the star ('cos it's always the star) brushes off the dirt and walks away without a scratch on him. We accept the absurdity of the scene because we know it's fiction - no-one beleives it could actually happen like that.

Now, let's think about dazzling an airline pilot with a hand-held laser. First of all, the plane is travelling at a couple of hundred MPH, descending or ascending (if it's not near an airport it'd be too small to "hit") and subject to, hopefully only, small amounts of turbulence: bumping the plane in all three dimensions at once. Into that you have someone at least a mile away with a hand held device that he or she is apparently able to aim accurately enough to hit the pilot's pupil - which would be at best 7mm across, even at night. (Though at night you couldn't even see the cockpit window, even if you could make out where the front of the plane was.)

Now I don't doubt the pilots do, occasioanlly, get a stray reflection - given all the lights we surround ourselves with. There may even be a microsecond here or there where some fool with a laser does manage to randomly wave it across a plane's window. (Hint: how many passengers have witnessed this? Considering there are hundreds of passengers sitting by windows and only a couple of pilots, you'd expect some sort of corroberation - let's hear it). But to say there are pilots out there who have actually been dazzled by a concerted effort from malevolent individuals? Bruce Willis would be proud of their aim.

0
0
Unhappy

@AC

AC you have to be a idiot to think that this article is about your every day laser pointers.

They are using high powered ones which are extremely dangerous in this situation.

Hundreds of milliwatts instead of your toy 5 or 10 mW laser.

This also occurs with worrying frequency.

I'm a Aussie and its on the news far too often.

Banning the high powered ones, while not ideal, is the best way to help curb the problem.

There is a actual problem and its very difficult to deal with it as the idiots can be anywhere near the airport.

0
0
Bronze badge
Paris Hilton

For real?

Wasn't all this hokum about dazzling pilots with laser pointers blown out the water a while back? Given the low power of the things, plus the dispersion effect over any distance, PLUS the practical problem of hitting a window less than a meter square from half a mile away travelling at 200mph... well you'd need to be Luke using the Force to bullseye that one surely??

Paris, 'cos I dunno I bet she flies a helluva lot!

0
0

@Pete, not to be picky but...

Over a distance of a mile, a laser would lose some of its coherency and its focal point (not sure of the technical word) would expand. I see it with laser sights all the time, the dot which is 5mm across at 20m is gets much larger the further away you are aiming it. It's focussed at a certain distance from the projector don't forget. Therefore it's going to cover quite an area at that distance and so not need the same kind of precision aiming.

Not only that, passengers wouldn't see it - they sit at the SIDE of an aircraft, looking out SIDE windows - the pilots sit in the FRONT and look out the FRONT windows...

There was a phase not that long ago of people doing it to trains and buses (buses are not obviously quite as fast...) and I've SEEN it with my own eyes being done to a bus driver.

Final point - approach speed is normally around 150-160mph.

0
0
Sam
Flame

@ac preventing the impossible

Which part of; "Six passenger flights were affected, with air-traffic controllers having to re-route the planes" don't you understand?

It was a; "coordinated attack", and where does it say the lasers were ordinary hand-helds?

RTFA!

0
0

@David Cornes

I think the beam dispersion on all but the most expensive lasers is bad enough that it's possible. Bear in mind also that you don't have to 'stay on target' - just flashing someone's eyes off and on briefly (e.g. by 'panning' the pointer) could do the trick.

Anyway, clearly an excellent idea to ban them. Much easier than trying to catch the twits responsible (who have them already). Ohh... wait...

0
0
Thumb Down

Extremely unlikely, but....

Why do we want these stupid laser pointer thingies anyway?

My physics teacher always said never to look at the dot of a laser, because even when reflected, monochromatic coherent light (as is generated by a laser and nothing else in the solar system) is bad for the retina.

What great benefit do we get from that unpleasant red or green dot? Is a little pointy stick not easier and clearer?

Just ban the bloody things and be done with it. It won't save any pilots, but there'll be fewer blind cats.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Cobblers!

We've been here a while back, and someone in the comments section then used the word "Bollocks" in the title. Too true.

I don't care how strong the laser is, there is no way anyone is going to target a window at the distance required. Go on, do it with your 10-15mw on a window a mile away. No, tell you what, make it 100 meters.

A lucky swipe I hear you say?

So what!

At the distance we are talking about a laser on any glass that is slightly curved is going to do, eh, bugger all.

As for a whole bunch of pilots reporting it. I am sure a whole bunch of others have reported black helicopters etc.

Rubbish!

Paris. I bet she is reporting an incident right now!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: How unlucky can you get?

Couple of points. The passengers are not facing windows and the windows they have are a tad smaller than the ones INFRONT of thye pilots.

Secondly, I have a 100mw green laser and I and very careful with it. However a few times I have managed to get a partial reflection reflected back into my own eye. Unlike the red lasers your eye doesn't have enough time to react to these green lasers and the effect can be quite a large chunk of forward sight missing for up to 10 minutes from this very small relection. Can you imaginge trying to land a plane like this?

0
0
Black Helicopters

@Pete

Its just a question of power and aiming angle...

Laser light does spread like anything else, just not as much. If you get an ordinary red laser level or something and point it at the trees a quarter of a mile away on a clear night you'll see the beam has spread quite nicely.

And provided you are on the flightpath and more or less head on to the aircraft then aiming really isn't going to be much of a challenge. The planes are travelling at constant speed and rate of descent - pretty much a sitting duck.

Here's a link to a supplier's info page:-

"These are not toy's! The light can burst balloon's, melt plastic, light matches and have a range of up to 100 miles!... Our green laser's are so powerful, you not only see the dot but can clearly see the entire beam stretching through the sky. "

Still think its impossible to aim one of these at an airliner? And yes, the company should be ordered to cease trading at once - or at least until they know what an apostrophe is for...

http://www.spymodex.com/laser002.htm

0
0
Silver badge

Re: How unlucky can you get?

"Hint: how many passengers have witnessed this? Considering there are hundreds of passengers sitting by windows and only a couple of pilots, you'd expect some sort of corroberation - let's hear it)"

No you wouldn't. All your suppositions are based on a side view scenario which is highly unlikely. Now stand yourself in front of the aircraft on it's glide path coming in to land and your couple of hundred mph reduces to virtually nil. As for the 7mm target, the refraction from the windshield, which is a larger area, will be more than enough to distract a pilot, possibly enough to prevent them seeing outside.

If only all these idiots who try this were like you.

0
0
Black Helicopters

idiots

>> "The use of these laser pointers against aeroplanes is unbelievably stupid and cannot be tolerated,"

It is certainly stupid, in fact probably more stupid than trying to take out an airliner with a pea shooter. What will the try next, attacking trains by throwing individual grains of sand off railway bridges.

If these scoundrels want to cause mayhem by temporarily blinding people, they need to take a leaf out of the Department of Transport/Police book. What they need to do is find an already dangerous accident black spot, install an incredibly powerful flash bulb, aim it at the oncoming traffic and set it to be triggered when ever a vehicle exceeds a certain speed.

0
0
Thumb Down

@Pete and David Cornes

Not that I condone such idiocy, but it'd be pretty easy to rig up a spotting scope mounted on a tripod making it a breeze to target.

Scopes are relatively inexpensive, too; a 60x60 scope could be yours for ~£40, new, probably a shedload less on fleaBay.

Oh, and check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRvdsPyAytw&NR=1

125mw green laser pointer.

Dragon also do a 500mw job o.O

And, as has been commented here already, it's something that's been reported on multiple occasions, this isn't just a one-off.

Want to reassess your comments?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: For real

I don't know whether this is real or not but, if the idiots are near the end of the runway then as the plane is on the glide slope the relative motion to the laser is reduced, plus if they are using a high power laser you'd only need to tag the pilot for a split second to cause problems.

0
0
Tim

@Pete

The beam spreads quite wide in the atmosphere (air molecules, dust and the like). There is a proper formula to describe how much, but I remember a Tomorrow's World a few years back where a laser shone at the BT Tower in London from a building a half-mile or so away had a diameter of over a metre.

Clearly this is bigger than the pilot's pupil and you'd only have to hit the nose of the plane to be sure of flooding the cockpit with dazzlingly bright, coherent light.

0
0
Bronze badge
Coat

Military tech to the rescue

I'm no expert, but don't we have missiles that can fly down the path of a laser beam? If so, job done I reckon.

Mine's the one with the old-fashioned blackboard pointer that looks like a car aerial and doesn't need batteries and can't be used to blind a pilot unless he's standing close to you and you poke him in the eye with it.

0
0
Joe
Black Helicopters

obvious answer

Bring Boeing's 747-mounted lazer in to land at Sydney and fire it back at anyone who shines a lazer at the pilot. Brings a whole new meaning to shedding some light on the situation...

0
0
Black Helicopters

@Pete

Back in WWII the Germans seemed to have little trouble following many a Lancaster bomber with multiple searchlights, despite evasive manouevers.

The fact that one can see the path of the beam is what makes it easy to stay on target. Classic feedback loop.

Black helicopter coz it reminds me of the laser warning sign at work.

0
0
Boffin

Powerpoint - literally

I thought these guys wore mirrored shades (I know - I've seen Topgun). They just need to polish them a bit more before landing.

0
0

Speed of light

Several references have been made regarding the difficulty of hitting a plane moving at several hundred mph. Aircraft speed is irrelevant. It's not as if you have to try to calculate the lead time necessary because of the length of time it takes the projectile - in this case light- to reach the target.

As to distance - I don't know about the situation there but where I am aircraft frequently make long low approaches. It's not as if they are little dots in the sky one minute and directly off the end of the runway the next.

A friend lives in an area where landing aircraft regularly bring conversations to a halt. You can practically count the rivets on the things.

This is an entirely plausible concern.

0
0

@steogede

So how many times have accidents been proven to have resulted from speed camera flashes? Stop whining and do the speed limit.

0
0
Alert

Ban Everything!!!

Whilst opinion is split on here, most of the 'it can be done!!' people are falling back to the argument that you would need a high power green laser.

So why ban low power red pointers then??

0
0
Anonymous Coward

I'm going to apply the laser defence mentality

So when we've had reports about the US' laser defence weapons shooting down mortar rounds, shells and rockets the uneducated came up with this brilliant idea of "OMG JUST STICK MIRRORS ON THE ROUNDS TO REFLECT THE LASERS AWAY"

So here's my idea-

Just stick mirrors on the planes and replace the cockpit window with a mirror reflecting outwards!

Oh wait...

0
0
Alien

surely it would have taken 2 frenchmen?

everyone seems to be assuming these are the 1mw laser pointers you get at tech conferences etc., but the simple truth is that you can get anything up to a 300mw laser pointer on ebay for less than 100 quid.

affixed to a powerful monocular on a tripod and properly calibrated against a stationary object you could easily have something that could do a lot of damage if you lined yourself a mile or so from the airport on the flightpath of incoming planes.

you wouldn't even have to aim directly at the pupils of the pilot as the beam would spread out enough that just pointing roughly at the cockpit itself would fill it with blinding green light and make it more than a tad awkward to fly the plane.

now find 2 or 3 like minded idiots and have them spaced apart and all doing the same thing.

of course, it could just be aliens.

0
0
Boffin

A relatively cheap solution.

As a laser technician, a cheap(ish) and quick solution has popped into my head. Issue the pilots with laser safety goggles. Let's see, goggles that block green wavelength ranges *flips through catalogue* Hmmm, ~£100 a pair. Not fantastically cheap, but probably the easiest solution to impliment.

Of course, I know nothing about landing a plane, so if there are some critical green lights that the pilots need to see (either on the ground, or on their control panels), then it's back to the drawing board.

0
0
Boffin

For the skeptics

A little research can do wonders, can't it.

Perhaps the skeptics should read this first:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/RS22033.pdf

and this:

http://www.faa.gov/library/reports/medical/oamtechreports/2000s/media/0409.pdf

For the laser wielding idiots, a quote from Frank Zappa: "There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."

0
0
Gold badge

Oh, it's certainly possible

If see the kind of stuff Wicked Lasers sell it's not hard to imagine doing this. You also don't need to aim to well, if you're in the landing path of the plane you just need to hit the window *somewhere - the glass itself is usually scratched and dirty enough to distribute the beam nicely. Give it enough energy and you will cause mayhem because landing is (AFAIK) still a very visual affair.

As for mirrored shades - no dice. You're suddenly looking at a light that exceeds regular daylicht a few times over, and one good hit can block vision for a 10 minutes - if it's longer we're talking about permanent damage.

FYI, in several countries lasers of above-pointer wattages (I think it's over 5mW) are classes as weapons and thus require permission to hold and/or import. Not that that stops The Bad Guys (tm) but it limits at least theoretically the amount of idiots that can get their hands on it.

I hope this has been, er, enlightening..

0
0

There are lasors specifically designed to get pilots attention in this way

All those of you who are saying targeting a pilot in this way is impossible should perhaps take a look at http://www.sea-me.co.uk/laser_flare.htm . The products produce a line rather than a spot and can easily cross a pilots line of sight - I've legitimately used one in this way.

0
0

Ban laser pointers

As 10:32 says, what's wrong with pointy sticks? Ooh, I know, you can beat people over the head with them or sharpen them at one end and stick them in people. Ban those too so people have to use their fingers. Wait, those can be curled into a ball and used to hit people, get rid of them. People can always jerk their heads in the direction of the diagram... or into people's faces... shit, I'm a walking bag of criminality, wait while I fetch my hacksaw and perform some surgery on myself.

Distracting pilots with a laser pointer is already illegal, so... why not use the existing laws and actually try to catch the people doing it? It's funny how people think Minority Report is some kind of dystopic nightmare society when banning something because it *might* lead to someone committing a genuine crime is no different from predicting someone committing a crime and arresting them before they do it. In fact, much worse, since less than 1% of laser pointer owners or illegal drug users actually go out and commit theft, rape or assault, whereas the bald triplets in the swimming pool were 100% accurate if I remember correctly. (Did Tom Cruise actually shoot the guy in the end? If he didn't it's still >99% accuracy.)

To actually answer the question, some screens are very large and if you're in a large auditorium with an audience looking down at you from different angles, you might as well indicate with your finger..

0
0
Silver badge

@Pete - Pete replies

OK team, I've read the responses - not convinced. Here's why.

As was pointed out, laser beams spread. It's only a few milli-radians but the wider the beam, the lower the brilliance and the less dazzling effect. The further away the wider the beam and the lower the light intensity again. Inverse square - the effect falls off rapidly.

Next, passengers not seeing the effect: The size of the window is irrelevant. Provided you are close enough - e.g. in the window seat your field of view is as good as a forward-looking pilot's. There should be some reports from passengers

Third, to actually illuminate a pilot, as has been pointed out you have to be virtually on the flight path. Someone under the aircraft or to the side can't see the pilot and (more to the point) the pilot can't see them, even out of the corner of their eyes WW2 spotlights? They illuminated the side/bottom of the planse. Even when caught in the spotlights, virtually NONE were hit by AAA. It was more a morale thing than a defence thing.

Almost last. Sorry to be the bringer of bad news, but the power of lasers sold inthe shops is more a work of fiction than fact. The ones advertised at 20mW, 50mW 100mW etc. are generally nowhere near that - it's only advertising. Yes a few can pop a balloon, but move the balloon a mile away and you won't even light it, let alone burst it. One thing that people don't realise is that the power of these pointers falls off as the batteries get low and as the laser ages.

Nearly there.... I still don't buy the ability of a person to hand-aim a laser onto a moving target over a mile away for any significant time. It's simply not possible and I defy anyone to prove otherwise. As a benchmark, the moon subtends an angle of 0.5 degree - you can't hand-aim a laser at that for any time, let alone the front of a plane - let alone the pilot's window - let alone the pilot's eye - even for a millisecond, even if they weren't moving.

Finally (phew) any terrorist worth their salt would use an IR laser - that leaves no visual trace and can therefore be placed at any location with impunity. In case you're wondering, a green laser is in reality an IR laser diode with a frequency doubler (or trebler) integrated.

0
0

ILS?

Don't pilots land using ILS? What are they looking out of the window for?

Still ridiculous to be pointing lasers at people intentionally mind. Although to be honest the only thing that really surprises me about this story is the fact it happened in Aus first and not Blighty. I can only surmise that our brand of tossers are slower on the uptake and didn't think of it first.

0
0
Coat

who cares?

who cares about the pilots? i think we all know by now that planes pretty much, takeoff, navigate, fly, land and taxi themselves these days by computer, the pilot only being a safety device. just tell them to keep their heads down or something. now its a shame that Australia doesn't have a patriot act like we yanks do, or they could just have some misguided air marshall with a sniper rifle abuse it and take out the laser-wielding problem child.

mines the one with the remnants of the constitution in the pocket...

0
0
Silver badge

@Cobblers

It's quite easy at night to illuminate a target the size of an aircraft at a range of a couple of miles. I remember many years ago when laser pointers were much bigger and much newer, we were up on a hill one night and could see the light on the local church spire at that sort of distance. It is a concern to pilots, so even if your little 1mW job won't do it, there are plenty of higher power ones that can.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Dazzling lights...

My driveway has a short steep uphill section that results in my headlines being aimed up into a part of the sky where airplanes on approach may sometimes be found. In short, my fairly bright headlights sometimes are aimed directly into the cockpit of approaching airliners that aren't much more than a kilometer away. Not much I can do about it.

One question: on a day with too many lasers on approach, why not simply switch to IFR procedures (stop looking out the window) while the police attempt to track down the culprits? This assumes that the culprits are not able to get in a position to dazzle the pilots in the final moments just before touch-down.

0
0
Thumb Down

Stop the nonsense or go-around!

@Ross

Most landings have an ILS guided approach but end with a visual landing. Fully automated landings are certainly not the norm since they require very expensive ground and airborne components. Most airports do not have the necessary equipment supporting the precision required for autolanding.

@Pete

How difficult is it for you to Google for "laser pilot ntsb"????

Johan (PPL(A))

0
0
Tom
Stop

Angle of approach

When a plane lands, It has it's nose up, quite simply, from the ground you wouldn't have the required clean tradgectory, unless you knew the exact angle of approach, and the angle the windshield is set, and the relative height of the pilot in relation to all this, to plan a correct refraction. To pull this of, as they are suggesting, would required a targeting system and a computer.

To have any chance of overloading someones rods and cones, you would have to be above the hight of the cockpit at time of interception, seen as Australia isn't exactly abundant with natural undulations, I find all of this very hard to swallow, unless it's traffic controll having a laugh, even then, the plane would be so close to touch down the effect would be neglegent.

If this really was happening, they would be able to work out from all the varibales required to create the scenario, where the laser was stationed.

0
0
Bronze badge

@ a relatively cheap solution

I seem to remember that aircraft have green landing gear down indicators, and that three greens means that the landing gear is down and locked.

But nice try.

Why do we need these lasers anyway, surly you only need one that goes 25m. Mind you they are cheap enough for kids to buy, and it's probably kids doing it. Just think of the kudos you could get by showing little Johnny that you can tag a jumbo. My what fun!

0
0
Unhappy

Zero in

As a weekend pilot myself, I wonder why the pilots can't guide police to the approximate area where the beam is. They've got the best view and I doubt that whoever is doing this is in the middle of a big crowd.

Regular surveillance by ground cops should catch these fools and then charge them with attempted murder - for a Jumbo that could be 500 counts......

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Angle of approach

"When a plane lands, It has it's nose up"

Which has sod all to do with the angle of approach. In a simplified world during the approach the pitch of the plane (which is what I think you mean) is used to control altitude and keep it on the glideslope, it can be positive or negative. The extreme nose up is just for touchdown.

0
0

Stupidity

There has been frequent mention of the difficulty of aiming a 'hand-held' laser. Well, I have a camera intended to be used as a hand-held device. I guess it must be impossible for anyone to use it with a long lens (which magnifies the effect of an unsteady hand) because obviously no one would ever think of attaching it to a tripod to hold it steady.

And it is so difficult to use a telescope to find a particular star because no one has thought to invent a spotting scope. Oh, wait a minute...

Obviously no one would think of applying these methods to the problem under discussion... thank god all the malicious folks in the world are stupid.

Hmm... I guess I have to assume all these reports of security problems on the internet are bogus because they would require a level of intelligence that many writers seem to think is beyond the capability of malicious people!

Assuming that moral stupidity is a certain indication of general stupidity is... stupidity. Underestimating the intelligence of your opponent is always a stupid move.

0
0
Sam

Oh, FFS....

To all the gizmoids on here spouting crap on a variation of "it can't happen / it never happened"

Please read this sentence from the original article slowly, you can move your lips if you like;

"SIX PASSENGER FLIGHTS WERE AFFECTED, WITH AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS HAVING TO RE-ROUTE THE PLANES"

Now go away and write what you are on your forehead, with a marker pen.

No, don't use a mirror, it will come out as "tnuc a ma I".

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums