Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The FBI conducts criminal investigations of aircraft laser strike incidents

SAN JUAN—The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) San Juan Field Office and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are combining efforts with federal and local law enforcement authorities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to raise awareness of laser strikes against aircraft in the islands.
The FBI conducts criminal investigations of aircraft laser strike incidents. Shining a laser at an aircraft or its flight path is a felony offense under Title 18, United States Code, Section 39A. If found guilty, offenders face a fine of up to $250,000 and five years’ imprisonment.
“Shining a laser at an aircraft is a senseless act which places the lives of aircrews and passengers who travel to and from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands at risk,” said Carlos Cases, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Juan Field Office. “Our office is committed to investigating these reports and working with federal law enforcement partners to identify and bring offenders to justice.”
The Federal Aviation Administration enforces stiff civil penalties of $11,000 per violation against persons who point lasers at aircraft. Since the FAA announced this initiative, the agency has opened 129 enforcement cases against persons who aimed laser devices at aircraft.
From January 1 to September 6, 2013, a total of 2,711 laser incidents were reported to the FAA nationwide, 95 in Puerto Rico. In 2012, a total of 3,482 strikes were reported nationwide, 75 in Puerto Rico.
Since the FAA created the reporting system in 2005, laser strike reports have sharply increased from 300 in 2005 to 1,527 in 2009; 2,836 in 2010; and 3,591 in 2011.
The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Puerto Rico Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies in the region assist the FBI with monitoring and reporting these incidents to identify, apprehend, and turn over criminals to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
Lasers are inexpensive to obtain, and their ranges may extend more than two miles. Pilots affected by laser strikes regularly report temporary effects including after-image, flash blindness, and temporary loss of night vision. If a flight crew member is lased, his or her ability to safely fly the aircraft is seriously compromised, endangering passengers and the public.
If you witness an individual aiming a laser at an aircraft, send an e-mail to laserreports@faa.gov. Additional information about the FAA’s laser initiative is available at:http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/lasers/
For more information, contact:
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En el 2012 se generaron 3,482 informes sobre personas que apuntaban con un puntero laser a los aviones, 75 de los casos ocurrieron en la Isla. (Archivo) 

De ser encontrados culpables, las personas responsables de estos actos se enfrentan a cinco años de cárcel y multas ascendentes a $250,000.
Pueden afectar la visión de los pilotos y poner en riesgo la vida de las personas que ocupan las aeronaves.
El Negociado Federal de Investigaciones (FBI) investiga cerca de un centenar de denuncias sobre el uso de punteros láser contra aviones que aterrizan o  despegan en aeropuertos de Puerto Rico, una problemática que va en aumento cada día en todo Estados Unidos.
El portavoz de la agencia federal, Moisés Quiñones, explicó ayer que las personas alumbran con dispositivos láser que emiten una luz roja o de otro color –como los que se suelen utilizar durante presentaciones ejecutivas o educativas– y que tienen gran alcance, lo que afecta la visión de los pilotos y, por ende,  poner en riesgo a los ciudadanos  que ocupan las naves.
“Esto pasa con aviones que vuelan a alturas bajas o cuando están despegando o aterrizando”, explicó Quiñones.
El FBI y la Administración Federal de Aviación (FAA) buscan crear conciencia sobre esta problemática que, según las estadísticas, solo entre enero y septiembre de este año se han reportado 2,711 incidentes a la FAA en todas sus jurisdicciones, 95 de ellos en Puerto Rico.
En el 2012 se generaron 3,482 informes sobre este tipo de acto, 75 de ellos en la Isla. Al momento no se han reportado accidentes desgraciados conectados a este tipo de acto, pero las denuncias siguen en aumento.
El FBI investiga los casos en conjunto con la Guardia Costera, la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de Estados Unidos (CBP) y la Policía. Todas estas agencias están monitoreando y reportando este tipo de incidentes para identificar y arrestar a los responsables.

De ser encontrados culpables, las personas responsables de estos actos se enfrentan a cinco años de cárcel y multas ascendentes a $250,000.

De ser testigo de estos actos, puede enviar un correo electrónico de forma confidencial a la dirección laserreports@faa.gov. También puede visitar www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/lasers.
Daño potencial
Los peligros que representan los punteros láser se limitan al daño que pueden causar a  la retina.
El efecto más común es ceguera temporera y titileo. Es similar a mirar a un flash directamente cuando se toma una fotografía, y la impresión puede durar varios minutos.
El titileo se refiere a ver puntitos en el campo visual. Hay personas que han reportado que el efecto les dura por días.
Otro peligro es quedar deslumbrado, lo que significa que se pierde completamente la visibilidad en el campo visual central luego de ser expuesto al rayo. Por ejemplo, es como mirar de frente un auto con las luces altas en una noche oscura.
Consejos
Nunca le apunte un láser a una persona.
No apunte a una superficie reflectiva.
Nunca mire la luz a través de un cristal de aumento, como unos binoculares o un microscopio.
No permita que los niños usen los lásers sin supervisión de un adulto.
Fuente:  Portal  de la Universidad de Princeton web.princeton.edu.


Blinded by the light

A Coast Guard flight helmet emits bright green light, similar to the light from lasers, which have continually harrassed Coast Guard pilots around the country. Laser strikes on pilots have jumped from 283 in 2005 to 3,591 in 2011, a 902 percent increase. Temporarily blinding pilots with laser lights is a federal crime. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.
A Coast Guard flight helmet emits bright green light, similar to the light from lasers, which have continually harrassed Coast Guard pilots around the country. Laser strikes on pilots have jumped from 283 in 2005 to 3,591 in 2011, a 902 percent increase. Temporarily blinding pilots with laser lights is a federal crime. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.
Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.
Weather conditions, crew responsiveness, incoming hazards and myriad meters, gauges and measurements. These are just a few of the things a pilot has to be wary of when flying an aircraft. A new concern is affecting Coast Guard pilots from Cape Cod, to Hawaii, from Puerto Rico to Seattle. Every air station in the Coast Guard is on the lookout for a simple beam of light.
In 2012, more Coast Guard flights were interrupted by laser strikes, than at any other point in its 223-year history. Laser pointers are being pointed skyward in record numbers; presenting a very real, very dangerous hazard to the men and women whose mission it is to save and protect those in distress. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, instances of laser strikes on aircraft have grown from 283 to 3,591 between 2005 and 2011, a 902 percent jump.
Lt. j.g. Ryan McCue, a pilot with Coast Guard Air Station Houston, has experienced this new safety threat twice.
The first time was after participating in a training exercise in Katy, Texas. McCue and his crew were on their way back to the air station when they were hit with a laser.
A high-powered laser pointer is pointed skyward in a residential, Houston neighborhood. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.
A high-powered laser pointer is pointed skyward in a residential, Houston neighborhood. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.
“It was one or two quick bursts, but it illuminated pretty much everything in the cockpit,” said McCue. “It definitely seemed like they were targeting the aircraft. It wasn’t an accident.”
A pilot is accountable for the safety of themselves, their crew and their aircraft. That can be a weighty responsibility for any conscientious Coast Guard crewman or any pilot, particularly because they operate in a turbulent and unpredictable environment. These concerns are compounded by the prospect of being temporarily blinded by a carelessly wielded laser pointer. This is another factor that McCue comes to terms with every time he prepares himself for another flight.
“Our normal operations take us far offshore. It’s not always the best weather out there and if there’s a cloud cover where we’re not getting a lot of moonlight, that’s inherently dangerous as is and that’s typical for us,” said McCue. “Anything that’s going to increase that danger, like being exposed to a laser light, can increase the risk exponentially and could cause the crew to come to a consensus to call it quits.”
On July 16, 2012, this worst case scenario was almost fully realized.
A Coast Guard crew from Air Station Savannah, Ga., was in the process of searching for two men whose 19-foot catamaran overturned four miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach. The aircrew was in the middle of their search when a laser strike caused enough added risk that they were forced to return to base. Fortunately, the two men, 49 and 50, found the strength to swim safely to shore.
Another laser-related instance on Sept. 12, 2012, created an incredibly dangerous environment for Coast Guard crews conducting training.
A helicopter and crew from Air Station North Bend, Ore., was hovering 75-feet above the waters of Depoe Bay, carrying out a training procedure with a Coast Guard boat crew when a laser shone through the cockpit. At such a precarious elevation and with hampered vision, the aircrew departed the scene and headed back to base. As the boat crew headed back to their station the laser followed them, continuing to harass them for much of their transit.
Aside from the dangers of distracted or blind flying, there is another immediate effect of laser strikes – crew exhaustion.
“It can be a big drain on the unit if we’re constantly being lasered,” said McCue. “When a crew gets lasered, they can’t fly again for 24 hours or until they can get in to see an eye doctor for an examination and are medically cleared. Meanwhile, another crew has to be woken up in the middle of the night to fill in. With only 17 people at our air station that can fly, it can take a serious toll on our mission effectiveness.”
The human eye has many jobs. In addition to perceiving light, it also tells the brain the difference between colors and perceives depth and distance, essential factors for pilots. It’s one of the most sensitive instruments in the cockpit of any aircraft and it’s also the one most negatively affected by laser strikes.
Temporarily blinding pilots with laser lights is a federal crime. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.
Temporarily blinding pilots with laser lights is a federal crime. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.
Dr. William Lipsky, a certified ophthalmologist and refractive surgeon in Houston, was taken aback by the rising trend in laser strikes.
“I was shocked,” said Lipsky. “I didn’t realize was how much of a major problem this was until I started to do some research. It’s a pretty stupid thing to do.”
Having served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Navy for seven years and continuing to fly as a civilian, Lipsky understands the stresses and sympathizes with the pressures that come with being a pilot.
“The pilots who actually take the full brunt of it are momentarily disoriented,” said Lipsky. “The lasers are hitting when pilots eyes are dark adapted. That’s absolutely the worst time. Your retina has to recover, so you get flash blindness and that can last anywhere from a few seconds to many minutes, even overnight.”
Considering the ever-evolving environment in the air, those seconds or minutes of recovery might coincide with an event that requires the pilot’s immediate attention. Without the full use of his or her eyes, a tragic and ultimately avoidable event might occur.
But, with close to 3,700 laser strikes estimated for the year 2013, the Coast Guard isn’t the only entity being affected by laser strikes.
“If it flies, it’s been targeted,” said Lynn Lunsford, FAA spokesperson. “Hardly a night goes by in the U.S. that we don’t have three to five laser incidents, if not more, in all the major metropolitan areas. I saw several laser reports just last night. It’s something that happens every night somewhere in the country.”
It’s a threat the government takes very seriously. To dissuade the public from turning their lasers skyward, harsh civil penalties have been put in place, subjecting violators to up to five years in prison and fines of up to $11,000. With educational outreach operations underway, the FAA and Coast Guard believe that in most cases people just need to be made aware of the harm they’re doing and the precarious situations they’re creating thousands of feet above the earth.
 Laser strikes on pilots have jumped from 283 in 2005 to 3,591 in 2011, a 902 percent increase. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.
Laser strikes on pilots have jumped from 283 in 2005 to 3,591 in 2011, a 902 percent increase. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.
- See more at: http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2013/02/blinded-by-the-light/#sthash.r4Z1lbzK.dpuf
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