Laser activity against passenger aircraft continues: now in Australia

15 March 2007: The Northeast Intelligence Network was one of the first private intelligence sources to issue reports about unusual laser activity against passenger aircraft, having reported on such activity since 2004. The airline industry has been continuously targeted by terrorists in a variety of forms for decades, from “traditional hijackings” to using the aircraft to cause mass casualties.

Within the last few years, a disturbing trend has emerged; the use of high-powered lasers against passenger aircraft, usually on approach to an airport to blind the pilot and copilot in the cockpit and cause a crash. Other theories pertain to the use of lasers as sighting devices for weapons against the aircraft. The FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security have issued official memos warning of laser activity against aircraft. Excerpted from a 2005 joint FBI/JTTF memo:

“Although lasers are not proven methods of attack like improvised explosive devices and hijackings, terrorist groups overseas have expressed interest in using these devices against human sight. In certain circumstances, if laser weapons adversely affect the eyesight of both pilot and co-pilot during a non-instrument approach, there is a risk of airliner crash.”

This week, airline pilots in Australia issued a mid-air alert over Sydney after a laser beam hit their cockpits above the city’s northwest on Monday night. The Federal Transport Department confirmed up to 20 laser incidents across Australia, including one on a Royal Flying Doctor plane. Peter Gibson from Australia’s Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that there have been several incidents over the past two years in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne where passenger aircraft have been struck by lasers - possibly with the intent to temporarily blind pilots, especially on approach into airports.

A spokesman for federal transport minister Mark Vaile said there were concerns terrorists could use the lasers, which he said could distract pilots, thereby “endangering the plane and its passengers.”