Pilots in Bangladesh have warned a major incident is at risk of occurring due to an increase in laser strikes during nighttime take-offs and landings.

Both local and foreign pilots flying to and from the nation’s largest airport have reported incidents of laser strikes almost every day in recent months, according to Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan, a former executive director at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

Laser illumination in an aircraft cockpit is a particular issue as it can cause distraction, disorientation or, in serious instances, temporary incapacitation due to flash blindness.

“Major accident could happen at any time”

“The laser strikes have reached such a level that a major accident could happen at any time,” said Syed Nazmul Hasan, a senior pilot at national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

Inadequate countermeasures offered by the nation’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, mean that although specific data isn’t collected, multiple incidents are happening each night, according to Captain Ahsan.

bangladesh pilots report increase in laser strikes
Pilots at Bangladesh’s flag carrier, Biman,  are among those reporting an increase in laser strikes | © Anujan Anton / TravelRadar

CAAB’s existing countermeasures include raising awareness through sending text messages, placing adverts on local TV networks and informing law enforcement agencies to identify the perpetrators. Most industry professionals agree that they are not adequate to stop the laser strikes

Zero arrests or fines to date

Shining lasers at aircraft in Bangladesh is punishable under the Civil Aviation Authority Act of 2017. However, sources familiar with the industry say there have been no recorded instances of arrest or imposing fines since the law was implemented.

Another Biman pilot, who asked to remain anonymous, told reporters, “I keep my head down during landing in order to make sure the laser does not impact me.”

Laser strikes are also a complicated problem for airlines across the world. According to the US aviation regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, there were over 35,000 similar incidents in the US between 2016 and 2021.

Similarly difficult to tackle, Gatwick Airport was paralysed for three days in 2018 as authorities tried to locate the operator of a reported drone flying close to the runway. A similar incident occurred in Frankfurt in 2020.

Can Bangladeshi authorities do more to prevent laser strikes on aircraft? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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