JetBlue Struck by Laser Beam (ATC Audio)

On Dec. 28 2014, JetBlue Flight B61994 (Embraer ERJ-190AR) bound from Nassau, Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was struck by a laser beam while on approach to Fort Lauderdale (KFLL). Prior to landing the crew requested medical personal to meet them at the gate after arrival. The first officer sustained unknown eye injury, according to the FAA.

ATC Audio:

laser-pointer-distractionThough it is unlikely, high power visible or invisible (infrared, ultraviolet) laser light can cause permanent eye injury. The injury could be relatively minor, such as spots only detectable by medical exam or on the periphery of vision. At higher power levels, the spots may be in the central vision, in the same area where the original light was viewed. Most unlikely of all is injury causing a complete and permanent loss of vision. To do this requires very specialized equipment and a desire to deliberately target aircraft.

Main concers in terms of aviation safety is distraction of pilots or block pilot’s vision due to very bright lights. Veiling glare would make it difficult to see out the windscreen. Night vision starts to deteriorate. Temporary flash blindness is also very likely. This works exactly like a bright camera flash: there is no injury, but night vision is temporarily knocked out. There may be afterimages—again, exactly like a bright camera flash leaving temporary spots.