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COPA raises concerns over laser use

 

It has recently come to light via a NOTAM that Environment Canada’s Centre for Atmospheric Research (CARE) is conducting an experiment using a laser in unrestricted airspace near Egbert, Ontario.

The NOTAM issued to advise pilots of the laser operation reads:

090269 CZYZ TORONTO FIR

CZYZ STATIONARY VERTICAL GREEN LASER LGT BEAM PROJECTION O.25 NM RADIUS 441355N 794642W (APRX 4 NM NE ALLISTON AD). NOT VISIBLE DRG DAYLIGHT. LASER LGT BEAM MAY BE INJURIOUS TO PILOTS/AIRCREW AND PASSENGERS UP TO 5000 FT MSL. FLASHBLINDNESS COULD OCCUR UP TO 8000 FT MSL AND COCKPIT ILLUMINATION MAY OCCUR BEYOND THIS DIST. LASER BEAM WILL BE ACT CONTINUOUSLY IN NON PRECIPITATION COND ONLY.

TIL APRX 0907271800

COPA contacted Transport Canada via the Civil Aviation Issues Reporting System http://www.tc.gc.ca/wcms-sgcw/civilaviation/cairs-755.htm because it seemed irresponsible to approve such a dangerous project in such a high density air traffic area. The explanation revealed some details about safety measures to help mitigate the danger to some extent.

TC explained that the laser has multiple safety mitigation elements in place so as not to impede upon the safe operation of aircraft. The beam has been diverged to significantly reduce the block of airspace that presents a hazard to people on aircraft. The laser system has been equipped with a radar interlock function that disables the laser when aircraft get too close. Similar systems have been used elsewhere in Canada and the radar interlock has proven to be reliable and effective. The radar is monitored and, if there is a failure of the radar interlock system, the laser is disabled.

Since this technology will be employed again, COPA suggested to TC that AIC 24/08 be updated as soon as possible to include an explanation of the use of these lasers and mitigation measures, and that the NOTAM be reworded along the following lines wherever a laser is deployed:

090269 CZYZ TORONTO FIR

CZYZ STATIONARY VERTICAL GREEN LASER LGT BEAM PROJECTION O.25 NM RADIUS 441355N 794642W (APRX 4 NM NE ALLISTON AD). NOT VISIBLE DRG DAYLIGHT. SYSTEM IS EQUIPPED WITH SENSING DEVICE TO DISABLE LASER WHEN AIRCRAFT IN PROXIMITY BUT BE AWARE IN CASE OF SENSING FAILURE. REFER TO AIC xx/09. LASER LGT BEAM MAY BE INJURIOUS TO PILOTS/AIRCREW AND PASSENGERS UP TO 5000 FT MSL. FLASHBLINDNESS COULD OCCUR UP TO 8000 FT MSL AND COCKPIT ILLUMINATION MAY OCCUR BEYOND THIS DIST. LASER BEAM WILL BE OPERATING IN NON PRECIPITATION COND ONLY.

TIL APRX 0907271800

TC said our concerns with respect to the use of lasers in an unrestricted airspace were noted and that the information regarding the laser operation and its mitigation will be published in an upcoming edition of the AIP Canada (ICAO) Supplement.