FBI Investigates Laser Beam
Directed Into Airliner Cockpit

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello, Jeff - So much for Homeland Security. I feel less secure then I did in 2001. A laser that can be directed into an airliner flying almost 2 miles above US cities must be technologically sophisticated.
Just as a matter of curiosity, I wonder how many America hating illegals have crossed our borders into the US since 9/11? They move about our communities unwatched and unchallenged.
If the laser originated in a residential community, didn't someone see something? We, as citizens, need to be very vigilant because our own government and homeland security is not.
FBI Investigates Laser Beam Directed Into Airplane Cockpit
CLEVELAND (AP) -- A commercial airliner traveling at 300 mph almost two miles over northeast Ohio was preparing to land when a green laser beam invaded its cockpit.
The FBI is investigating whether the incident was a prank or if there was a more sinister motive. The airliner was not affected.
The inbound flight from Washington, D.C., was about 15 miles from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Monday when the beam shined inside the cockpit, according to the FBI.
"It was in there for several seconds like it was being tracked," FBI special agent Robert Hawk said.
Air traffic controllers used radar to determine the laser came from a residential area in suburban Warrensville Heights. The FBI has no other leads on a suspect.
A memo sent to law enforcement agencies recently by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department says there is evidence that terrorists have explored using lasers to blind pilots during landing approaches.
In the past year, there have been several reports throughout the United States of laser lights directed at commercial flights. None of the lights have affected the flight of any aircraft.
In September, a pilot for Delta Air Lines reported an eye injury from a laser beam during a landing approach in Salt Lake City.
Interference with the flight of a commercial airliner is a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Hawk was unaware of anyone being arrested in any of the previous cases.
The episode in Cleveland had to involve a fairly sophisticated laser and a system that could track the airplane as it traveled 300 mph at 8,500 to 10,000 feet, Hawk said.
Hawk did not know what type of laser was directed at the airliner. He would not identify the airline, except to say it was a commercial flight.
FAA regulations mandate that laser light shows must register their locations and the lights cannot be directed above 3,000 feet. Lasers also are often used by construction companies to line up foundations.
Pat Smith, spokeswoman for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, declined comment on the incident.
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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From John Albrecht
re: "FBI Investigates Laser Beam Directed Into Airliner Cockpit"
Here is some science behind the alleged laser targeting of aircraft.
Few airliner cockpits are fitted with coherent light detectors, so there is no way to verify an incoming light "beam" is in fact a laser. It can just as easily be a refracted part of the spectrum from a defect in the windshield, a reflection from a swimming pool (which I can agree is very bright from up in an airplane), or coloring provided by atmospheric conditions. Some airplanes have a portion of the windshields tinted or drop-down tinted shades for use by pilots. These could change the color of any incoming light. I've seen "green light" in the windows of an aircraft during several regular flights.
As for the claim that "sophisticated tracking would be needed" to guide a laser, that isn't accurate. At the distances reported it doesn't take a sophisticated aiming system to keep a "laser" on a plane. A common gunsight would do just fine.
As for claims that pilots can be easily blinded by ground-based lasers, that is open to debate.
Here's why.
The farther the "target" is from the "laser", the larger the area covered by the "end" of the beam. It's not hard to aim a thousand foot-wide "spot" onto a moving cockpit.
This is because even well-focused laser beams spread-out: due to optics, and due to atmosphere.
Because the beam spreads out, this also means the power of the beam weakens...a LOT.
I'm including some very rough approximate calculations of beam power for consideration. It will be shown that it is quite a challenge to pump enough energy into the plane cockpit to injure or blind a pilot assuming distances suggested in various articles.
At a horizontal distance of 10,000 feet and an altitude of 10,000 feet, a laser beam with a divergence of 5degrees will produce a beam-spot about 1200 feet in diameter. That is not going to blind anyone...the power per square inch just isn't there. That "spot" covers more than 1 million square feet.
If we assume an easily obtainable commercial laser, or even an also easily home-buildable laser of 100 watts, that's about 600 billionths of a watt per square inch at the cockpit in the report....and that ASSUMES no weakening of the beam due to atmospheric thermal effects or absorbtion and refraction by moisture in the atmosphere all of which are very likely. The end result, is that such a laser beam will be harmless at that distance.
You can get more energy pumped into your eye from an ordinary camera flash.
In this case, even if you used a 10,000 watt laser, the power is still only a few thousandths of a watt per square inch by the time it reaches the cockpit window.
The light loses even more power going through the cockpit window.
In addition, the light not only has to be powerful enough to cause damage to the retina, it has to be focused by your eye on the retina long-enough to cause damage.
You would have to use an extraordinarily powerful laser beam to cause eye damage in this particular situation. This would be in the research or military category of laser, and you're not likely going to be able to carry it around easily.
At the distances in the article, you have to have the combination of extremely high-power, low-divergence, relatively close proximity, low-losses, and time-on-target in order to cause damage to the optic nerve. Achieving all of these is an incredible feat.
A thought that concerns me is that these unverified claims are going to result in a huge cry for "licensing" or "registration" of lasers. That is not only doomed to fail, it won't do anything to improve airline safety, and will divert funds from activities that COULD improve airline safety.
Lasers are too easy to buy, transport, and can even be made from scratch using common materials with VERY little cost or experience. The only thing that "licensing" or "registration" will do is increase costs to laser-using product manufacturers who will pass along the costs to the consumer. We will also have to pay even more taxes to support the licensing agencies, personnel, and computer systems. And the end result is they will still be unable to stop anyone from using a laser any way they want to.
The only approaches that have a chance of impacting this perceived threat are stiff prosecution of people misusing the technology to cause harm, and active defensive measures.
If lasers are PROVEN to be a legitimate concern, then the appropriate response is to outfit the cockpits with laser-light detectors, and either provide laser goggles for pilots to wear during take-offs and landings, or use cockpit window screens and laser-resistant cameras to provide images for the pilots during those periods.
Under those conditions, it might also make sense to ensure that at least one pilot is wearing the goggles at any altitude less than say, 5000 feet. It doesn't take much to render safe even a very powerful laser used from a distance of a few thousand feet.
In fact, it makes sense to me to first outfit some airliners with laser detectors (capable of recording intensity levels) just to see if in fact this is a real problem. This would be a relatively cheap way to determine if laser-targeting is in fact occuring, and if it in fact presents a safety problem. It should be remembered that briefly looking into the sun causes blindness, too.
From what I've read in the news, I'm more concerned about the potential of a terrorist targeting airliners using laser-guided or wire-guided missles, or even large-caliber automatic weapons during takeoffs and landings. The missles have a range of many miles... using lasers to try to blind pilots is ineffective at best beyond a few thousand feet.
John Albrecht
Here is a table of APPROXIMATE beam power assuming different angles of diveregence in the laser beam at a distance of about 14,000 feet and at 1,000 feet from a theoretical cockpit. Keep in mind these figures do NOT includes losses from the atmosphere, the windows, or other aspects of laser technology. It should also be noted that at 1,000 feet, and with a smaller divergence laser, the "spot" is MUCH smaller than at 14,000 feet, and it becomes much more difficult to keep the laser tracking the window of the cockpit (for example, at the 1/2degree divergence, at 1000 feet, the "spot" is only 9ft wide). Also, the more you want to reduce the divergence angle, the higher quality your laser and optics must be.
Beam 100W laser 100W laser
Angular per square inch per square inch
Divergence Power At Cockpit Power At Cockpit
Window - 14,000 feet Window - 1,000 feet
5degrees 6 billionths of a watt 114 millionths of a watt
2degrees 4 millionths of a watt 680 millionths of a watt
1degree 14 millionths of a watt 3 thousandths of a watt
0.5degrees 61 millionths of a watt 11 thousandths of a watt
From Jim Mortellaro
And just what did the news media report tonight? The CBS and NBC news organizations announced that these 'events' were likely the result of 'kids' able to obtain lasers from catalogs, playing pranks.
Will those who believe this claptrap please stand up? Thank you for standing up. Now if you all don't mind, allow me to count.
One, two ... uh ... never mind. I haven't got a computer that big. Oh well, I suppose this one's gonna be believed just like Chemtrails are jet Contrails. And the check is in the mail. And ... your place or mine? And ... "If you REALLY loved me you WOULD!"
God bless Amerika...
...and all the lemmings whose brains are at sea.




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