MORE than 100 cases of people shining laser beams at aircraft landing at Cape Town International Airport have been recorded since 2010.
The airport has had the highest number of recorded incidents of laser interference in SA in the past two years.
Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) has issued a statement warning that laser interference “is a potential hazard to aircraft safety” and that notable incidents generally involve people directing powerful laser beams at aircraft on final approach.
In total, SA airports have reported 181 incidents of laser interference between January 2010 and February 2012.
ATNS said there had also been incidents where lasers had been pointed at air traffic control towers.
At 106, Cape Town International Airport had the highest number of reported incidents,
This figure made up 58.56 percent of the reported incidents, while Lanseria Airport had 21 and OR Tambo International and East London airports had 14 each.
Police and ambulance aircraft or rescue helicopters have also been targeted at times.
“The fact that these lasers can startle the crew during the critical phase of flight – at the 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.
There have been no prosecutions related to these incidents during the two-year period, but there have been two arrests.
One suspect was arrested during the World Cup in 2010 at a fan park in Durban and there is a pending case in the Bloemfontein Court: two people were arrested during the ANC Centenary celebrations for shining lasers at aircraft.
An aviation security committee has been set up which comprises members of ATNS, the SA Civil Aviation Authority, Airports Company SA, SA Air Force and SAPS to address these concerns.
In October last year ,stakeholders held a seminar on Laser Interference in Aviation to consider adopting a collective approach to reducing the growing threat of unauthorised laser interference in aviation.
Current legislation requires that all owners of laser devices have to have a permit, but illegal laser pointers are imported without permits and are sold in trinket stores or at fleamarkets.
Source: Natasha Prince, Cape Argus
Gravity always wins!