Laser attacks are the new scourge of Russian aviationby Alina Lobzina at 24/06/2011 18:48Laser-toting pranksters are flirting with disaster as they target Russian aircraft in growing numbers – and risk bringing down a jet with catastrophic consequences.
A simple laser pen has become the scourge of airports after a string of incidents where pilots reported being distracted by beams of light as they came in to land.
In recent weeks there have been reports of laser strikes at Moscow’s Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports, as well as in Rostov-na-Donu.
“Russian aviation first encountered this problem about a year ago,” Sergei Izvolsky, a representative of the federal aviation agency Rosaviatsiya, told the Moscow News.
“These are unitary rays, and it’s obvious that it can’t be illumination from buildings or disco-equipment,” he said dismissing the possibility that blinding could be accidental.
“People may not realise the seriousness of consequences,” he added.
Take-off and landing are done mostly manually, and if pilots can’t see anything for just a second, it might lead to a rough landing or even worse, Izvolsky said.
And although using laser-pointers or illuminating objects isn’t illegal by Russian laws, endangering flight safety is clearly condemned in the Criminal Code, the expert said.
Currently there are no restrictions on selling laser-pointers, and they can be easily bought anywhere in Russia.
Investigators may be able to find out culprits’ location but unfortunately no further progress has been reported yet.
According to them, someone directed a laser beam from the distance of 5-6 kilometres from the village of Shakhovo in the Moscow region, RIA Novosti reported.
A laser-pointer with a range of 10 kilometers can be bought for about 1,000 roubles ($35.50) in numerous online-shops.
Luckily, the culprit didn’t manage to pick out the flight deck this time.
“We have addressed the law enforcement bodies,” Izvolsky said. “And we have to work together to find out the most efficient way of tackling the problem,” he added.
Russian aviation, already reeling from this week’s Petrozavodsk disaster, is in desperate need of an upgrade, VTB Capital transport analyst Yelena Sakhnova warned.
And lasers do nothing at all to help.
“And if people like that just add to these problems, the situation might get even worse,” she warned.
The trend is increasingly worrying. Over the past six months there have been 40 reported cases – a sharp increase in previous years.
“There have been three cases registered over the past 24 hours,” Izvolsky said, including one at Russia’s biggest airport, Moscow Domodedovo.
In the second half of 2010 there were just five cases reported, he said.