According the country's DFS air traffic authority, reports of laser pointer incidents in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Saarbrücken have spiked in recent weeks. One particular incident where a laser pointer caused a “disturbance” is under investigation by the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation (BFU), the organisation reported.
“In our assessment this is very dangerous,” DFS spokesperson Kristina Kelek said on Thursday.
“It's like a lightning strike,” pilots' union Cockpit spokesperson Jörg Handwerg said, explaining that at nighttime people's pupils are dilated, and a sudden flash of targeted light can be blinding and deadly.
Landing is the most delicate operation of a flight, Handwerg said, adding that pilots are in a “phase of highest concentration” during which any distraction could cause an accident. When someone shines a laser into the cockpit at this time, many pilots are forced to abort their landing attempt and re-approach the runway, he said.
Interfering with train, ship or air traffic with a laser is a crime that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in Germany. It's not a new phenomenon – officials in the US and Australia have also reported an increasing number of cases in the last two decades.
The increase has likely occurred because laser pointers are cheaper and easier to acquire than ever before.
Because catching a laser attacker in the act is difficult, Handwerg suggested that government officials institute regulations similar to those for “other weapons,” because “when aimed at people this is definitely a weapon” he said.