Laser Attacks on Aircraft in South Africa on the Rise
GAUTENG, South Africa, March 28, 2012 — Nearly 200 incidents of lasers being shone at aircraft have been reported in South Africa over the past two years, the Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) Co. Ltd. reported. The laser attacks are a hazard to aircraft safety.
ATNS noted that from Jan. 1, 2010, to Feb. 29, 2012, some of South Africa’s major airports reported 181 laser attacks. Cape Town International Airport reported 106 incidents, while Lanseria Airport had 21, and OR Tambo International and East London airports jointly reported 14 incidents each.
Notable incidents generally involved laser beams being directed at aircraft on final approach, ATNS said. Other low-flying aircraft, such as police and ambulance or rescue helicopters, are also targeted at times. There have been incidents where laser beams were directed at air traffic control towers.
Laser beams can startle crew during the critical phase of flight — when passengers are buckled in, electronic devices have been turned off and the cabin lights have been dimmed for better visibility outside. Pilots could lose control of the aircraft momentarily because of laser blinding, which could lead to a serious accident, ATNS warned.
To date, there have been no prosecutions for shining lasers at aircraft; however, in the period under review, two arrests were made.
To address concerns, an committee comprising the South African Civil Aviation Authority, Airports Co. of South Africa, the South African Air Force, the South African Police Services and ATNS is working on ways to mitigate the situation, including raising awareness. Legislative considerations also are under review.
In October 2011, a seminar on laser interference in aviation was held in Brussels. Hosted by Eurocontrol, its goal is a collective approach to reducing unauthorized laser interference in aviation. The seminar also addressed quantifying the degree of laser interference in aviation, the exchange of knowledge, and improving the situation on both the national and international level.
Current applicable legislation requires that all owners of laser devices have a permit. In South Africa, laser pointers are imported illegally and sold in trinket stores and flea markets.
ATNS has urged people not to buy these devices and to report their sale to the police.
For more information, visit: www.atns.com
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