But it isn’t. In fact it can be very dangerous.
Recently a friend on Twitter who is an airline pilot talked about getting hit by a laser while on final approach the other night. I had never really paid much attention to this phenonmena, so I thought I’d look into it.
Turns out a USAToday article in Janurary reported that over 2,800 pilots reported being targeted with lasers. This is a doubling of these incidents from 2009 and represents a 10-fold increase since 2005.
The problem is that these lasers can blind pilots in critical phases of flight, namely takeoff and landing. As pointed out in a NYTimes article, laser beams diffuse with distance, but the intensity remains. What that means is that a beam 1/25 of an inch wide can be 2 to 3 feet wide by the time if arrives at an unsuspecting pilot’s cockpit. And yet, it’s just as brilliant and blinding as it is at 3 feet.
The risks are obvious. Laser pointers continue to increase in size and power and the damage they can inflict. Recently a 15 year-old student burned his retina and damaged his vision when he got an eye full of a powerful green laser he was using to try and pop balloons.
It’s not a joke at all. Please let people know this is dangerous.