Laser use at public events

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Dominic Ford

Hi Dave,

There may be other people here who know more about aviation than I do, so my views are my own and may not reflect the wider BAA!

I’m sure we’re all keen to make sure everybody knows that lasers are dangerous, and have to be used in a safe and legal way. The police have been doing a good job of raising awareness of this in the UK media in recent days.

However, I’m not sure NOTAMs are the way forward.

My personal understanding is that (at present) NOTAMs have to be issued for fixed laser displays, such as the ones that light up the sky at Greenwich and other temporary installations. Those installations are permanently on, so pilots need to avoid flying through the beam.

Star parties are a bit different. There’s someone steering the beam. Planes are easy to see at night time, especially at low altitude. Anyone running a responsible star party should be keeping an eye out for them and make sure laser beams stay well away. In fact, there’s a legal obligation on them to do so (quite rightly!).

If the Civil Aviation Authority wants notification of star parties, I’m sure we’d be keen to help in any way we can. However, I rather doubt the CAA could do anything useful with that information. Laser beams at star parties move all around the sky, crossing vast areas of airspace. The CAA is unlikely to block out such a large area of air space because of one star party!

So, my impression is that we need to urge people to act responsibly within the existing rules, and make sure that everyone knows that pointing lasers anywhere near planes is a very stupid thing to do!