Asiana Pilot Claims Bright Light Blinded Him at 500 Feet

The deadly crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214 has drawn criticism and heavy questions over the last several days, as crash investigators continue trying to find a cause for the accident. However, yesterday during a briefing to the press it was revealed that NTSB investigators were told by the pilot that “a bright light” had blinded him momentarily just prior to the crash.

NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman said officials were unclear as to what might have caused the blinding light, although reporters had questioned whether a laser pointed from the ground could have been to blame.

It is a federal offense in the United States to point a laser at an aircraft. U.S.C. Title 18, Chapter 2, Section 39A states that, “Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.”

Additionally, one of our readers shared data with us regarding other incidents at San Francisco International Airport that involve lasers pointed at aircraft. While each of the incidents occurred between 2006 and 2010,  none involved laser beams seen at an altitude below 5000 feet. Information about these previous incidents can be found below:

2006: A320 encounter at 6000ft: http://www.asias.faa.gov/pls/apex/f?p=100:23:0::NO::AP_BRIEF_RPT_VAR:704025

2007: B777 encounter at 5000ft: http://www.asias.faa.gov/pls/apex/f?p=100:23:0::NO::AP_BRIEF_RPT_VAR:754822

2008: B757 encounter at 5000ft:  http://www.asias.faa.gov/pls/apex/f?p=100:23:0::NO::AP_BRIEF_RPT_VAR:779258

2009: B757 encounter at 8000ft: http://www.asias.faa.gov/pls/apex/f?p=100:23:0::NO::AP_BRIEF_RPT_VAR:844875

2010: A320 encounter at 12000ft: http://www.asias.faa.gov/pls/apex/f?p=100:23:0::NO::AP_BRIEF_RPT_VAR:900225

Reports that matched the altitude of the Asiana Airlines flight 214 incident have occurred in the past, once in 2005 in Phoenix, and twice in Las Vegas between 1993 and 1994.

Hersman and the NTSB remain cautious about embracing the laser pointer theory, stating yesterday that, “We need to understand exactly what that is,” calling it, “a temporary issue.”

Image by Andrew Choy via Wikipedia, under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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