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Laser Beam Guidance for Oshkosh Air Show

The Federal Aviation Administration is devising a method of alerting pilots who enter a restricted airspace to leave immediately. To do this is will use a laser beam pointed at the aircraft in a certain color. This is something new, but the concept is probably something, which came from the VASI light system for glide paths on landing. VASI is Vertical Air Situation Indicator.

General Aviation pilots are familiar with the sayings; "Red over red you're Dead." The VASI lights had a set of green and red lights three rows. If you only saw green in the middle you were on a proper glide path, but if you saw the red only you were too low and liable to hit something and ruin your whole day, bite the farm or not walk away from that landing.

Each year at Oshkosh Wisconsin is the annual Experimental Aircraft Association, the largest event of its kind in the world. Planes fly in from all over and converge at Oshkosh. There are always a few deaths and mid-air collisions and hundreds of near misses. I propose the FAA allow the EAA to use the laser system to alert pilots that they are on the proper approach and heading. Thus preventing any crashes.

Currently you have probably heard on the news that the FAA wants to use these lasers to prevent pilots from entering restricted airspace, especially around Washington DC or Crawford TX, etc. The Military would also like to keep general aviation pilots away, so they do not have to shoot them down. The whole thing is a bit controversial. Airplane Owners and Pilots Association states their position:

"Safety of the nation's pilots should be the highest priority for government agencies charged with regulating the use of lasers. While AOPA does not believe that lasers pose a significant safety issue that warrants the use of temporary or permanent airspace restrictions, general aviation pilots should be aware that higher power lasers are more readily available, and at least one study shows that they may cause temporary vision changes from lasers. Because general aviation aircraft often fly at relatively low altitudes, today's strongest lasers may pose a threat to the safety of the flight in all flight regimes."

The FAA assures the AOPA, EAA and other pilot's association not to worry it will not be using any high powered lasers like was used against the Delta Heavy on its way into Salt Lake City or the many others we heard about in the news. Many pilots blamed the AFRL Air Force Research Lab for doing some sort of tests and the conspiracy theorists of course blamed the UFOs and aliens? Hard to keep everyone happy these days. The AOPA also noted that:

"AOPA has also learned that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is evaluating the use of laser beam technology to visually alert to aircraft that violate the security-restricted airspace around Washington, D.C. Very few details have emerged about this research project; however, AOPA is concerned about the safety of general aviation. According to NORAD officials, the ground-based laser system uses safety-tested low-level beams of alternating green and red laser lights to alert pilots that they are flying without approval in designated airspace. This system would be used when the aircraft in question cannot be contacted on VHF voice radio by ATC. According to the FAA, a preliminary test of the system showed that the laser illumination is "eye safe." However, the FAA contends, and AOPA agrees, that a number of important steps must be taken before the system is fielded. A special advisory must be developed to alert pilots of the new system, operational procedures must be developed, and a broad education and outreach effort must be made to the pilot community. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is aware of this research and the need to prevent potential safety hazards to pilots."

So with all this said it does appear that a low intensity laser beam guidance system might come in very handy as 50,000 private aircraft converge on this years Oshkosh air show in less than 4-days? Think on this and see you there. Oshkosh 2005;


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