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[Ben]:More laser hysteria No discussion found
Oh no! Lasers everywhere!

Okay folks, you guys want to get scared about lasers, think about this:
It would not be unreasonably hard to construct a chemical laser powerful enough to easily kill pilots, cause fires in wing fuel tanks and otherwise damage or destroy aircraft. This hypothetical chemical laser would not need to wait to recharge, could be stored in and fired from a large van, would have no readily visible beam and setting up simple optical targeting systems would be cake. If our imaginary terrorist wanted to get really fancy, remote-control targeting, automatic triggering or even completely automated radar targeting would be doable.

"Well Ben, even supposing all that is true, why not just buy ground-to-air missiles on the black market? That'd have to be cheaper, right?"

Yep. But the unknown is so much more frightening. How quickly would we lose faith in air travel if every two weeks we heard about a commercial aircraft that crashed for "unknown reasons".

What if the terrorists did it from a moving vehicle? Think about it ... terrorists load up a semi with their laser and have a retractable top. They drive down I70 by the airport, slide the top back and fire six or seven bursts at a plane on approach. Both pilots are killed and a fire breaks out in the port wing. The terrorists put the top back on and keep driving. No one sees a smoke trail. Airport radar doesn't show any inbound projectiles or missiles. As far as anyone can tell, the plane just fell out of the air. When the black-box is dug out and the voice recorder is replayed, all that is heard is a brief scream from the pilots followed by "Bitchin' Betty" saying "Pull up, pull up, pull up."

Now imagine this happening every fourteen days at different airports. Eventually, someone will get lucky and spot the odd looking semi (maybe on satellite, maybe from an overpass), but it might go entirely unnoticed or unreported for a long time.

With this as a serious possibility, laser pointers being bounced off of aircraft don't seem like all that big of a deal to me. That's not to say that it is impossible to hurt a pilot or passenger's eyes with a beefed up laser pointer, but I'm not going to get worried until Achmed Ali Airpower starts looking at gas dynamic systems.

But that's me.
  2005-01-13
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