Mon, Jun 26, 2017 - Page 3 News List

CAA mulls laser penalty

COMPROMISED:The Civil Aviation Act restricts the use of lighting near airports, but does not recognize pointing laser beams at aircraft as an offense, the agency said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) is considering amending aviation regulations to enhance flight safety and punish people who point laser beams at aircraft.

The agency received eight reports of flight interference caused by laser beams so far this year.

A man who identified himself as Lawrence Wen said on Facebook that a flight was “attacked” by laser beams on Wednesday as it was flying 2,000 feet (610m) above Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Harassing pilots with laser beams just as they are preparing to land put hundreds of passengers in danger, Wen said.

He expressed the hope that the agency would implement standard operating procedures to prevent such incidents.

Pilots should abort their landing approach and circle around if the landing is disrupted by laser beams or other interference, he said.

Air traffic control personnel confirmed the incident and said that the flight was being operated by China Airlines (CAL).

Information obtained from the air traffic control tower showed that the incident occurred at 11:50pm when flight CAL163 was preparing to land.

The pilot sent an emergency message to the tower about interference from laser beams and the tower asked the Aviation Police Bureau to locate their source, the personnel said.

However, police could not find the culprit or culprits, they said, adding that the incident did not repeat that day.

Statistics from the Air Navigation and Weather Service show that it on average handled four to five cases per year in which pilots reported harassment by lasers.

“The laser beams could cause temporary blindness or even inflict permanent damage to the pilots’ corneas. The safety of those aboard the aircraft would be compromised should either one of these situations occur,” said Yuan Hsing-chien (袁星健), director of the air traffic control tower at the airport.

Pilots can identify laser beams originating from concerts or other public gatherings at night, Yuan said.

However, the incident on Wednesday last week seems to be an intentional act, he added.

Catching the culprits is difficult since the incidents occur at night, making it harder for pilots to identify culprits and for police to narrow the search area, Yuan added.

The airline said the pilot of flight CAL163 informed the control tower as soon as they saw laser beams coming from near the runway, adding that the pilot requested that the interference be removed, after which the flight landed safely.

The flight was not under “attack” from laser beams as Wen had described, CAL said.

The agency said that the Civil Aviation Act (民航法) restricts the use of lighting near airports and states that people endangering flight safety would face criminal charges.

The agency said it is preparing an amendment to the act, because it does not specify pointing laser beams at aircraft as an offense.

Last year, a Virgin Atlantic flight heading to New York was forced to return to the London Heathrow Airport after the pilots’ eyes were affected by laser pointed into the cockpit during takeoff.

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