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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Feedback May 2013

‚Ė∂ R&W’s Question of the MonthWhat will the future helicopter look like and how will it function? Who do you think will win the Joint Multi-Role/Future Vertical Lift contract?

Getting it Right

I very much enjoyed Dale Smith’s insightful interview with Bristow’s Mark Duncan (see March 2013, page 44). Back in the day when some of us were struggling to forecast the size and fit of the helicopter market in the offshore service industry we, too, focused on a mix of seats, miles, and dollars. But we ultimately learned to fixate less on the offshore operators and more on the oil companies themselves, who alone knew what was going to happen and where. The forecasters are still forecasting, but too few perceive the basic parameters. Dale Smith and Mark Duncan get it right.

Dave Lawrence

Fairfield, Conn.


I own the largest laser show company in my region, we do professional shows of all sizes, from arenas and stadiums to school classrooms. I would consider myself to be extremely well-versed in laser safety, and I have issues with your articles about the dangers of laser pointers and aircraft (see March 2013, pages 18 and 64).

First let me say that I certainly feel that lasers should NEVER be pointed at aircraft. There is a very real danger of flash-blindness, and anything that interferes with vision is a hazard to a pilot. Period. That is why the laws governing such things exist.

But is that not enough of a reason for concern without resorting to sensationalism? Your insinuation that the pilot pictured on page 18 received the injury to the white of his eye from a ground-based laser beam directly is unlikely to the point of ridiculousness. You should do some research to verify the information given before you publish junk science like this. Laser beams are dangerous to flesh (especially the retina) if sufficiently powerful, but that danger diminishes fairly rapidly the further the observer is from the source. Look up NOHD calculations (nominal ocular hazard distance) as a start. About the only way that the laser pointer in question could have damaged the white of the eye is if that person had been held down by force, and then used the Wicked Lasers to slowly burn the eye at extremely close range, on the order of inches. There is even more difficulty with the idea that the laser directly injured the white of the eye was injured because the color white naturally reflects light much more than it absorbs it. This means that white-colored objects (including the white of an eye) are the least susceptible to damage from high-intensity visible light.

Now, retinal damage is a whole different ballgame. There is certainly danger of retinal damage from any sufficiently high-intensity visible (and often invisible) light sources. But I get that it’s a lot less sensational looking trying to show a picture of some guy’s face and expecting people to see the alleged retinal damage. A huge red swollen spot on the eye would obviously present much more of a “fear factor,” which is what you are obviously striving for.

In conclusion, lasers are dangerous… but junk science and fear mongering are even more so.

Pat G., Laserist

Backed by Evidence

Thank you for your feedback, Pat. It is always welcome! As the researcher and writer of the laser piece you are talking about, I would like to provide a response.

What I reported about the laser injury was based on three sources. The first was a face-to-face interview with all of the officers, including the officer in the photograph, which included his assertion that a licensed physician specializing in ophthalmology attributed the injury to the laser device seized by ground officers. The second was a copy of the official charging document that was sworn to by the detective in front of a court magistrate. My third source was the official injury report filed by the officer with the police department. And while the March 2013 issue went to press too soon to include the outcome of the trial, the suspect—through his legal representation—pled guilty to the charges as filed on March 1, 2013.

So, while the assertion that a hand-held laser device could have caused such damage is beyond everything I had seen or heard of before, I’m confident that I reported the facts as stated by the witnesses and court documents accurately.

Ernie Stephens


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