Laser pointers might seem like innocent toys. They are cheap, easy to find, and can entertain cats for hours. But for pilots, they can pose serious problems.
Officials at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma recently asked the public to take care with laser pointers, and to not point the devices at aircraft.
Yuma is known for being an aviation-friendly community. Each year, we welcome the pilots who come to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for training, because our weather conditions are perfect for such activities.
Their concerns are valid. Officials note that over the last few months, the number of incidents involving aircraft and laser pointers have increased, including an incident with a Search and Rescue helicopter.
Beams from laser pointers, when shined toward the sky, can reach the cockpit of aircraft, and can compromise the pilot’s vision.
In fact, the FBI compares the impact to setting off a camera flash in a dark room.
It can be a distraction hazard as far up as 12,000 feet, traveling more than a mile in the air, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots, the FBI reports.
Pilots across the United States have been forced to change direction because of laser pointers, and several have required medical attention.
Too often, people want to see how far the beam can reach. But that action isn’t without consequences. The beam can disorient a pilot, injuring or permanently damaging their eyes.
In Yuma, that problem can be compounded at night, when military pilots are wearing night vision goggles, or flying low for training.
A federal law passed in 2012 made lasing aircraft punishable by up to five years in prison, according to the FBI’s website.
It’s a dumb, dangerous thing to do, and the punishment is a steep one.
As the next MCAS Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course draws near, it’s critical that people respect the pilots, and refrain from aiming laser pointers into the skies.
Original article can be found here: http://www.yumasun.com/opinion