The Air Line Pilots Association is bringing attention to the rising number of people on the ground pointing laser lights at airliners. Noting the obvious safety hazard, including the lasers can temporarily blind pilots or cause them permanent eye damage, the pilots want to increase public awareness and have called on lawmakers to help them create “laser-free zones,” writes the Wall Street Journal. While there are no reports of laser-caused airliner accidents, pilots say some of the hand-held, easily concealed devices are powerful enough to light up a cockpit.
At Denver International Airport, the number of laser light incidents nearly doubled in the last two years, according to Federal Aviation Administration figures cited by the Associated Press. There were 38 incidents last year, up 20 percent from the 32 reported in 2009 and nearly double the 22 reported in 2008. In prior years, there had been fewer than 10 incidents. To get an idea of how powerful these lasers can be: One reportedly pointed at DIA was believed to have originated in Estes Park, 50 miles northwest of the airport. Across the nation, laser light incidents nearly doubled to 2,800 in 2010, with Los Angeles experiencing the most problems. Just eight other airports reported more incidents than Denver.