ATNS warns against laser interference

2012-03-25 17:42

Johannesburg - There were 181 incidents of laser interference at South African airports between January 2010 and February 2012, Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) said on Sunday.

"Laser interference is a potential hazard to aircraft safety," ATNS said in a statement.

"Notable incidents generally involve people directing powerful laser beams at aircraft on final approach."

ATNS said there had also been incidents where lasers were directed at air traffic control towers

Cape Town International Airport had the highest number of reported incidents at 106, followed by Lanseria Airport with 21. OR Tambo International Airport had 14.

"The fact that these lasers can startle the crew during the critical phase of flight [at a time when everyone has to be buckled in, all electronic devices off, and the cabin lights dimmed to allow for better visibility outside] makes these events serious," ATNS said.

"In the event that a pilot loses control of the aircraft momentarily due to being blinded by these lights, this could lead to a serious aircraft accident."

To date there had been no prosecutions for laser incidents, but there had been two arrests.

ATNS said an aviation security committee was working on identifying possible mitigatory actions, including raising awareness and looking into legislative gaps to check whether punitive measures or sanctions could be reviewed and strengthened.

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