OR Tambo pilots battle laser pranksters

2012-03-01 11:50

Johannesburg - Pilots landing at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg have been falling prey to laser-wielding pranksters, a report said on Thursday.

Airline Pilots' Association of South Africa vice president Gavin Durr said the problem has been particularly rife in recent days.

He said the source of the problem was thought to be several shopping centre parking areas in the Boksburg vicinity, from where children were directing laser beams at descending planes, Beeld reported.

"We think the kids are doing it for fun, rather than to cause a possible accident. We don't believe they realise how catastrophic the consequences can be if a pilot is blinded during a crucial phase of descent," he said.

Although most countries do not have legislation in place to deter laser beam pranksters, this will soon change.

"Unfortunately there remains a massive need to educate people, and in many instances the parents buy their kids these laser toys, which are widely and freely available at flea markets," Durr said.

  • Sean - 2012-03-01 12:01

    The descent is one the most critical phases of flight. Blinding the pilots can result in a catastrophe. The UK takes firm action against these guys, so why shouldn't we?

      luytster - 2012-03-01 12:19

      Sean, they do but only if the showerhead and his bunch of theives are having a Jamboree in town.

      Bardy - 2012-03-01 12:35

      Why don't the airport authorities put letters in all the nearby residents post boxes to inform them of this and ask the parent to educate the children?

      CyberDog - 2012-03-01 15:17

      @Bardy: You gonna have to teach them to read and write first, before mailing the letters ... Education is a real big problem in South Africa.. you think if they could read and write, they would be stupid enough to do this ?

      Karlien - 2012-03-01 15:41

      because the UK is a nice country where people actually uphold the law... sadly these kids will probably keep on getting away with it.

      Arthur - 2012-03-01 17:26

      @Bardy. When you buy a laser it warns you off radiation on the packaging. Educate the parents first.

      Francois - 2012-03-01 21:29

      The problem once again comes in with that word "educate". Vavi wants grown working men that strike to be educated to not become violent and destroy property and Durr wants even more higher grade education for that. I think the best education for this problem will be that we announce which high brass of government and Cosatu is landing on what time at OR Tambo and let the kids play. We will soon see their education upping a level or three and then we know what Cosatu workers on a strike can do.

      Craig - 2012-03-01 22:03

      because this is africa sean .. if malema can get away with his ramblings there truly is no hope eh ?

  • Italy.FYI.L - 2012-03-01 12:03

    I used to be a pilot then I took a laser to the eye

      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-01 12:39


      kritzinger - 2012-03-01 14:15

      Y U No use autopilot?

      Ben - 2012-03-01 16:25


      halicon76 - 2012-03-01 19:58

      comment of the month... made me laugh

  • Irene - 2012-03-01 12:03

    How stupid do you have to be to do this kind of thing? Pathetic!

      Heiku - 2012-03-01 14:46

      She is being racist towards kids now Putin.

      Moss - 2012-03-01 18:23

      She's a volk member!

  • Janet - 2012-03-01 12:05

    @ Hallo - you are really not the brightest star by far. Or are you just jealous?My gosh I cant even believe you read the news with the few brain cells in your head. Do you know how many passengers are on one single flight? not to mention the general public that could get hurt. I think you should retract your statement.

      Kroese - 2012-03-01 12:26

      And i think you should go for laser treatment to have your condescending brain cells cut, janet

      Gustav - 2012-03-01 13:03

      kroese... retarded comment from a mentally challenged person!

      Mikkel - 2012-03-01 15:15

      @Janet + Gustav - Stop feeding the trolls.

      John - 2012-03-01 15:15


      Ben - 2012-03-01 16:27

      And Janet = feeder of trolls... You jelly?

      Arthur - 2012-03-01 17:31

      @Hallo. Let's look at your last comment and put emphasis on "WORKED". Past tense. Probably got fired for playing with a laser on the runway.

  • Rudie - 2012-03-01 12:06

    Point taken.

  • aarif.adam - 2012-03-01 12:11

    Hi guys, while I agree that a laser directly in a pilots eye can cause catastrophe and therefore these pranksters should be deterred, I think the probablitiy of correctly targeting a laser at a persons eyeball in a moving aircraft from atleast 1km is VERY low. Correct me if I've got this wrong?

      Bardy - 2012-03-01 12:42

      The probability might be slim, but there is still a probability. It takes only one flash of the laser in the eye to temporarily blind the pilot and it could be at a very critical point in the landing.

      Theo - 2012-03-01 12:59

      I remember I used to play with these lasers as a kid and when you shine them on an object far away the cross-section becomes a lot bigger (I used to point it to houses across the park, about 700m, and almost the whole wall will illuminate top to bottom). The intensity should therefore be less then as well, I think. Regardless, this is still a dangerous situation and should be dealt with severely. I use this airport often and would hate to go down because of some a$$hole with a laser pointer.

      Ian - 2012-03-01 13:18

      NOt saying you are wring but I think you are missing the point

      Mike - 2012-03-01 14:13

      @aarif, when the laser hits the cockpit window it causes a significant flare of light as it is refracted all over the place. During night flight cockpit lighting is keep at low levels to ensure a proper view of the outside world. This is similar to the situation that arises if you turn on the interior light in your car whilst driving at night - your ability to see outside is drastically reduced.

      Mike - 2012-03-01 14:38

      If as they say it is coming from a car park like East Rand Mall, the plane is a lot closer than 1 km. it is only a few hundred meters in the air when it goes over.

      Heiku - 2012-03-01 14:48

      You must remember Aarif that there is a probability of anything happening at any time. Exactly how large this probability is does not matter so the solution is to lock yourself in a safe and do absolutely nothing.

      JoeLeboe - 2012-03-01 15:14

      @Theo: Yes, agree, they are dangerous. And, unless you were a still a kid yesterday, you have not played with "these" lasers. I am an amateur astronomer and this one here can shine a beam of about 7km into the sky. It can causes INSTANT blindness. The world is not what it used to be when we were just kids.

      Barker - 2012-03-01 15:20

      Switch your bedroonm light on at 4a.m. and see what it does to your eyes. Ah.....Blinded by the light!

      John - 2012-03-01 15:24

      Irrespective of how much it may or may not affect his ability to fly, or how accurate they may or may not be, shine a laser in my face, on my person.. or even in the "space" around me and see if I don't get 'peed' off. Its incredibly distracting and irritating.

      indianajohn - 2012-03-01 15:25

      Theo - 2012-03-01 16:05

      @Joe - That is one bada$$ laser sure. Off topic, what would the average Joe (excuse pun) use this kind of laser for?

      JoeLeboe - 2012-03-01 16:45

      @Theo. To frighten your neighbours - no joking! As an astronomer, I also have a 30cm x 1.5m telescope through which I gaze at the stars. So when I see something nice, and the family and friends are also there watching, and they want to see it with the naked eye, I use the laser as a pointer like when at a conference. It points a (((((beam)))) right into the darkness and it looks as if you are pointing directly on the star or nebula or whatever you are looking at.

      JohnSA02 - 2012-03-02 06:36

      You are not wrong. BUT. Why the hell do something like shining a laser at a plane? Bored, too many games, just because it's wrong? I hope that you were not trying to condone it. If caught, these idiots should be severely punished.

  • jaz82 - 2012-03-01 12:18

    I would think those cool aviator sunglasses will block the laser beams.

      Gideon - 2012-03-01 12:24

      Not at night they won't, unless people have started wearing sunglasses at night when I wasn't looking.

      Kroese - 2012-03-01 12:28

      as so innovatively displayed by our great leader melema, even at night

      jaz82 - 2012-03-01 12:31

      Maybe night goggles for the pilots, I think that troll was wearing them cheap walker sunglasses

      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-01 12:39

      Pilots are cocky enough to wear shades at night.

      Fanie - 2012-03-01 14:08

      Unfortunately the aviator lenses block the light in the blue part of the spectrum so red and green laser light just punch through

      Mike - 2012-03-01 14:40

      Another chop WOW, shouldn't you be in class, Matric at 27 must be difficult!

      Heiku - 2012-03-01 14:51

      Maybe they can use those fancy watches they have to go back in time and save the world?

      jaz82 - 2012-03-01 16:00

      Mike your mom gives extra classes

  • Bobbie Booyse - 2012-03-01 12:20

    Lasers pointed at planes could be interpreted as an shoulder fired anti-aircraft missle -- not just to blind the pilot..especially at decent when the plane is slowing down and vulnerable. Why would anyone think playing a prank like this is funny? Are people sick?

      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-01 12:40

      I tell you, if I were the king of this country and someone pointed a laser at a plane, I would enact a law that states this is a sign of aggression and lethal force is authorised.

      Bobbie Booyse - 2012-03-01 12:45

      I fail to see the logic of your statement. This isn't a suppression of free speech, or a unreasonable demand -- if it was, faking bombscares or emergency calls would be too ...after all..its all in good fun?

      James - 2012-03-01 13:15

      Bobbie....HUH? How, please explain, could a laser pointer be interpreted as "an shoulder fired anti-aircraft missle" ? I think you're confusing a surface to air missile's laser guidance system (which is in the Invisible spectrum IE you don't see it) with a laser pointer which is in the visible spectrum. Don't you think it would be pretty pointless if a anti aircraft missile pointed a red dot where it was going to shoot at?

      Bobbie Booyse - 2012-03-01 13:29

      I didn't know that, thanks for the correction James..though I still would like to know - how exactly what they're asking for unreasonable? (even its just based on the argument of being blinded)

      James - 2012-03-01 14:29

      Bobbie, just realised my comment can be read as rude.Didn't mean it that way, but it's impossible to convey tone with text. No, I completely agree, and it's not unreasonable at all. Like I said further below, I've got a 400 mW laser with a 16km range, and I don't even operate it without special goggles, never mind pointing it at anything remotely risky. I've got scarring in my eye (called a floater) from looking at the laser dot(without wearing the goggles) shone onto the ceiling , that's how bright it is. These types of lasers pop balloons, light matches and burn your skin, all within reasonably close distance, but still shows how strong they are.

      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-01 15:00

      Non-night time laser sights for rifles operate in the visible spectrum.

  • Shaun - 2012-03-01 12:23

    Oh come on, those laser lights are infra red in the visible spectrum which means at night they may annoy someone close up but during daylight that will not happen because they will not go far enough to bother the pilot....

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-01 12:29

      No go far enough?? Really? I can shine a laser from a rooftop in a club in Durban onto a building about 6 km's away...

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-01 13:11

      No, solid-state laser have an extremely narrow spectrum with a monochromatic uniform polarization. If you can see it, it is not infrared. Infrared lasers is not visible to the human eye. It might be visible to a CCD camera like a cell phone camera but not to the naked eye. Red lasers even 5mW can disrupt a persons vision over considerable distance if pointed into his eyes directly, 50mW laser are also freely available, often in green, they have a potent beam that can disrupt vision km's away. But none of the visible lasers produce any infrared. They are really dangerous in the hands of children. (or those who act like children), 5mW the common red lasers on the key ring are classIIIa lasers, for a split second (blink) it will not damage your eye but after a few seconds it will damage the retina permanently. ClassIIIb lasers more than 5mW, typically 50mW can cause immediate damage, so be careful for pointing it to reflective surfaces.

      James - 2012-03-01 13:22

      Depends on the laser. Those little red cheap ones peak at < 1 mW. I've got a 400 mW green laser (peaks at 650 mW and averges 400 mW) with a range of 16 km. There's a new 750 mW out now that has a range of 136 km. Infra red is not in the visible spectrum of light by the way.

      Barry - 2012-03-01 13:29

      The US FAA take it seriously enough to demarcate laser free zones for 3.5km around approach and runways. The laser pointers are the biggest concer at night. A 5mW laser will cause glare at 300 meters and temporary flash blindness at 100 meters.

      Mike - 2012-03-01 14:41

      Really? Another chop!

      indianajohn - 2012-03-01 15:26

      Why is it always the people who are most wrong who are most sure of themselves?

      Ben - 2012-03-01 16:30

      S3 Krypton Series

      JohnSA02 - 2012-03-02 06:39

      It's noy the red spctrum lasers, but the high powered green lasers that are also freely available. Let me shine one into your eye? Willing to test? Bet not. And again, why shine lasers at planes? Are you bored? Play too many computer games?

  • Shirley - 2012-03-01 12:30

    We think? I suggest they actually investigate and find out! Then take action! Dont know if publicising it was such a good idea,now all the other morons will have a go!

      Barker - 2012-03-01 15:26

      I'm taking my 50 000 candlelight torch out tonight to see if I can track a plane.

  • johan.landman - 2012-03-01 12:36

    By this time i thought that a computer is landing the planes...

      Roger - 2012-03-01 12:58

      most of the panic comments are not aware of this. The plane virtually lands itself from about 30kms out. Line up the approach, punch the landing, and in older planes you actually have to engage the landing gear.

      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-01 15:04

      The autopilot can fail. It's rare, but how is a little punk in a parking lot going to know whether or not this is the case. Especially if it's one of those dodgy airlines with the non-existent maintenence schedules like Airlink.

      indianajohn - 2012-03-01 15:36

      johan, Roger, Donkie, you're all showing a vast lack of knowledge on the subject I'm afraid.

      Roger - 2012-03-01 16:08

      ijohn, just the angles don't make sense. And please enlighten us ignorant ones, with your vast knowledge on the subject please.

      iainrhind - 2012-03-02 09:53

      Only certain aircraft have autoland capabilities, and even fewer airports can accommodate. Generally speaking, once the Outer Marker is reached, the autopilot is disengaged and the pilot takes over flying the aircraft manually. By this time, the approach should be stable, but an intense amount of concentration is still required. Lasers shining onto the windshield, cause an intense flare which can destroy the pilots' night vision and leave them temporarily blinded.

  • marius.dumas - 2012-03-01 12:52

    It's not only pilots who are at risk, playing irresponsibly with a 50mW laser can cause blindness when pointed directly into someone’s eyes. They are invented for responsible people. Furthermore in our scientific world we use lasers from time to time to help doing alignments, distance and positioning measurements in labs but also outdoors. Lasers became a handy tool and safe for the people who use it responsibly. The problem is that when pranksters play childish games with it, government will be forced to make laws that restrict the use or availability of laser products. While pranksters still play pranks, The tools and solutions for engineers and scientists are being limited. Thus they end up creating a problem wider than only for planes. @Hallo, clearly you have never been in a cockpit few seconds before landing. Especially in windy and borderline visibility conditions for VFR, not only does the laser have sufficient intensity to impair a pilots vision. Any sufficient distraction of the pilots concentration at the last few seconds before landing can be dangerous. Take-off test the planes capabilities, landing tests the pilots capabilities. Many checks, precise adjustments, and decisions must be made at that critical time, even just distracting a pilot in that frame of time of a couple of seconds may be dangerous. It’s like setting of a bunch of crackers behind someone who is busy operating an electric saw. It’s not a joke.

  • Ian - 2012-03-01 13:16

    What the manufacturers of these lasers will not print on their product is; direct eye contact can and will cause blindness. These kids need a good hiding

      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-01 15:05

      It's right there, on the packaging.

      Gail - 2012-03-02 17:36

      Are the people operating these lasers actually kids or is this deliberate attempt to bring down plane? How much do these things cost and shouldn't they only be sold to people who understand the dangers they come with? As a matter of curiosity could refracted glare from a car windshield cause the same effect? At what time of day are these "kids/youths" using them seemingly on planes?

  • Hermann - 2012-03-01 13:19

    Laser toys should be banned outright.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-01 13:58

      I'm not sure if banning it is the answer. Laser pointers are tools, like knives and screw drivers. They are handy but dangerous if you play with it. yet banning it is not a good idea. Laser pointers are used for seminars, also by astronomers to point toward stars for show which stars they are referring to. Astronomers, engineers and scientists using these devices normally have more brains to know not to point it in someone’s eyes or at planes. It can be used to signal your position for telecommunications antenna alignments ext. The list of handy functions these tools have can get very long. However like with a knife. You may own it, no problem but if the police find you playing with it in public and or you cannot explain why you have it or what you use it for as a tool, they must confiscate it. I also think any device stronger than 50mW must have a license. People who perform any stunts that harm or put someone at risk, any person, motorist, people in public or airplanes must be charged and fined as with any other reckless behaviour. There should also be an age restrictions. I can almost compare there risks with other objects, 50mW = gun (dangerous at all times) Banning all lasers…I don’t think it’s necessary. But stricter control for public use would be wise especially for devices stronger than 5mW.

      Fanie - 2012-03-01 14:13

      Hi Marius I agree with you , but Herman did say Laser toys. It should be treated the same way fireworks have been - and that was quite successful - yes I know there are dimwits who still persist in stuffing around with them, but Darwin, plus the law is slowly eradicating this menace

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-01 14:47

      No, not outright, I have fun for hours with my cat trying to catch it!!

      Johan - 2012-03-01 14:55

      You actually need a licence to use a laser device with an ouput power greater than 5 mW.

  • Den - 2012-03-01 13:43

    hallo, you must really be stupid.

  • Ntuthuko - 2012-03-01 14:09

    @ hallo stop being short sighted.

  • Andre - 2012-03-01 14:20

    This is criminal and the authorities should treat this as attempted murder and zap the criminals.

      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-01 15:05

      No, it's not. It becomes criminal only when someone gets hurt.

      iainrhind - 2012-03-02 09:58

      @Andre - I agree, and I believe there is something brewing in this regard. @Vaal-Donkie - This is a criminal act with huge potential for disaster.

  • Ashen - 2012-03-01 14:51 it me you're lookin' for?...NO!

  • Melanie - 2012-03-01 14:51

    who's this hallo twot?? malema's bro?

      Hugo - 2012-03-01 23:49

      hey leave fat one alone to lick his wounds.The guy has been expelled,its time to get him out of your minds!!!

  • Heiku - 2012-03-01 14:54

    I think we should ban children.

  • Mikkel - 2012-03-01 15:18

    "Unfortunately there remains a massive need to educate people" Especially among ANCYL supporters.

      Heiku - 2012-03-01 15:32

      Yes it is Julias standing there in the car parks. I should have known it was him with all the free time he has these days.

  • chris.khanye - 2012-03-01 15:28

    There's this powerful laser that emanates from one of the street taverns (Front Page) in Tembisa. You can see it more than 5km away and the skies over Tembisa are host to air traffic 24/7. The laser is beamed especially on Fridays and Saturdays. The SAPS and aviation authority must do something about it.

  • Roger - 2012-03-01 16:12

    Do not stare directly into the laser, with your remaining eye.

  • Ben - 2012-03-01 16:32

    Mavrick from TopGun would have never allowed himself to be lasered.....

  • Ari - 2012-03-01 17:41

    I have seen a "laser toy" that sends out a beam that can burst an air-filled balloon! Bought on eBay. Shine that in someone's eyes and they will be permanently blinded.

  • Ian - 2012-03-01 18:29

    Any kamikaze pilots out there .... East Rand Mall ... that is the one.

  • Herbert - 2012-03-01 20:52

    I was driving home one night a few weeks ago and saw up ahead that this green lazer beam was pointing into the sky, next second the beam was directed right at me and it was dazzling. I could not see a thing, slowed down and stopped as best i could. i stumbled out the car and as my eyesight cleared i saw some kids running into a complex accross the road. I tried to chase them but they were long gone. these things are dangerous to pilots and drivers.

      Hugo - 2012-03-01 23:53

      talk about something to write home about!

      JohnSA02 - 2012-03-02 06:41

      Same thing on the N2 outside Cape Town. Namibia registered car with mommy and about 6 kids, all laughing and shining a laser at motorists as they drove by. Retards, including the Mom.

  • ehallaby - 2012-03-02 00:34

    Those people should be punished, what are they thinking? When a plane is on final approach that is the most difficult time for the pilot, talking to radio and lining up and everything he doesnt have time to be blinded by uneducated people. And what those people dont think when a green lases hits you in the eye in can mean permanent damage, not good for a pilot. So guys behave yourself.

  • Thomas - 2012-03-02 07:57

    A bunch of white adults were caught doing this in Bloemfontein... so the racist ramblings in the comments on this article are bizarre... and disturbing.

  • Randomhero6661 - 2012-03-02 09:16

    suddenly everyone is an expert on lasers...

      iainrhind - 2012-03-02 10:01

      We may not all be experts on lasers, but I think the majority of posters concerning the negative effects of lasers on pilots are pilots or responsible owners of lasers.

  • Bigsister - 2012-03-02 11:50

    Okay - who is blaming kids? There is every possiblity that these swamp donkeys are adults, I mean - it's Boksburg. Apologies in advance to those who may be offended, this is not aimed at you. And... let this affect a plane I am cruising to earth in... (and there are many many) passop julle ouens.

  • Grant - 2012-03-26 10:46

    Pew Pew

  • sibongile.makopi - 2012-08-01 16:47

    May be its the Boeremag trying to take its fight to what they think may be a significant level

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