Less than a week after the first reported laser strike of 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed three similar strikes against airliners on approach to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) last Sunday.
While laser-struck flights have never resulted in serious bodily harm to anyone, federal authorities are taking an increasingly harder line against them. Case in point: a federal court in Fresno, California, sentenced a man to 14 years in prison in March 2014—believed to be the harshest such sentence anywhere in the world.
According to Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesman, three Delta flights were affected:
• Flight #984, a B737, reported a laser strike while heading west at 6,000 feet approximately 25 miles east of LAX around 10:30pm.
• Flight #1211, a B767, reported a laser strike at 2,500 feet while westbound seven miles east of LAX around 4:45pm.
• Flight #34, a B767, reported a laser strike at 14,000 feet while northeast bound about 12 miles northeast of LAX around 4:45pm.
These flights all landed safely without incident.
It’s notoriously difficult for authorities to pinpoint where a laser strike is being fired from, particularly when fired at a commercial aircraft. When fired against law enforcement aircraft (particularly helicopters that can easily hold their position in the air), it is far easier.
"Pilots reported 101 laser strikes around Los Angeles in 2014 through December 19," Kenitzer added. "It's not unusual to see clusters of laser strike reports in major metropolitan areas."
FBI spokeswoman Mollie Halpern told Ars that year-end totals for laser strikes in 2014 are not yet available.
I can see clearly
Over 17,000 reported cases nationwide in the last decade—but only 80 convictions.
After Ars reported on the early January 2015 laser strike against Allegiant Air flying to Medford, Oregon, a Washington, DC-based firm wrote in to say that it had a new product designed to mitigate laser strikes.
Tony Reed, the president of Sierra Tango LLC, an aerospace firm, told Ars on Thursday by phone that his company has been working on a new pair of $900 glassesdesigned to filter out green lasers, higher-power blue lasers, near-infrared, and infrared frequencies.
"We’ve got one major US airline that is running trials, we’ve had some helicopters in police departments that are trying it," he said, declining to name the specific company or agencies.
He said that while the product has been in development for 18 months, it has been difficult to "get the word out." He’s hoping that pilots’ unions will help subsidize the cost of the glasses.
"Airlines have other priorities, and I’m afraid they will until they lose an airplane—that’s when it’s going to get their attention, and that’s a shame," he said.