[ISN] Laser injures Delta pilot's eye

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Wed Sep 29 2004 - 01:40:58 PDT


[Not really information security related, but I found this article
interesting since laser warfare and hacking is mentioned quite often 
in Chinese information operations reports.    - WK]

By Bill Gertz
September 29, 2004 

A pilot flying a Delta Air Lines jet was injured by a laser that
illuminated the cockpit of the aircraft as it approached Salt Lake
City International Airport last week, U.S. officials said.
The plane's two pilots reported that the Boeing 737 had been five
miles from the airport when they saw a laser beam inside the cockpit,
said officials familiar with government reports of the Sept. 22
incident. The flight, which originated in Dallas, landed without
further incident at about 9:30 p.m. local time.

A short while later, however, the first officer felt a stinging
sensation in one eye. A doctor who examined the pilot determined that
he had suffered a burned retina from exposure to a laser device, the
officials said.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokeswoman Yolanda Clark
confirmed the incident, but declined to provide details.
"TSA is aware of the incident, and we are working with the airline in
conducting an investigation to try and determine the cause of the
incident," Miss Clark said.
She would not say whether TSA considers the incident a possible
security threat to commercial aircraft. Other officials said the
incident was serious enough that the pilot will be unable to fly for
at least a week.
"So far, it doesn't sound like there will be permanent [eye] damage,"
one official said.
The identity of the pilot could not be learned, and Delta spokesman
Anthony Black declined to comment.
Officials were unsure of the source of the laser and could not
determine whether the exposure was deliberate or accidental.
John Mazor, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, said
commercial pilots have been exposed to laser illumination.
"The Air Line Pilots Association has received reports in the past of
incidents where lasers penetrated cockpits and, in at least one case,
caused injury," Mr. Mazor said.
Several years ago, a pilot flying into a Western airport was hit by a
light from a laser light show. The causes of the other incidents are
not known, he said.
Asked whether a laser aimed at pilots could cause a plane to crash,
Mr. Mazor said: "I think that's highly improbable. In every case in
the past, the flights landed safely."
Military personnel also have suffered eye damage from laser
In one case, Naval Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly and Canadian helicopter pilot
Capt. Pat Barnes suffered eye injuries hours after an aerial
surveillance mission to photograph a Russian merchant ship that had
been shadowing the ballistic-missile submarine USS Ohio in Washington
state's Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The Navy recently turned down an appeal from the Defense Department
inspector general to award Cmdr. Daly a Purple Heart for the incident.
Cmdr. Daly, who retired from the service last year, continues to
suffer eye pain and deteriorating vision.
During congressional testimony in 1999, he warned of laser threats to
"Numerous documented cases regarding the use of lasers against
aircraft, civilians and military personnel exist, as well as does an
all-too-lengthy list of the injuries that have resulted from the
accidental and intentional misuse of these devices," Cmdr. Daly told a
House Armed Services subcommittee.
He noted that incidents of lasers being directed at commercial
airliners during takeoff and landings have raised fears that "this in
fact may be a new form of terrorism."
"Lasers are easily obtainable and can be self-manufactured weapons in
the terrorist arsenal, which essentially can effect a soft-kill
solution and leave virtually no detectable evidence," he said.

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