A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
News: Aviation incidents
This webpage has a chronological list of selected aviation-related laser pointer incidents. We also have news pages for non-aviation incidents, and for all other laser pointer news (includes overall statistics about incidents, new laws and regulations, and safety warnings and publications). In addition, the What’s new at the website page lists major changes, updates, and additions to LaserPointerSafety.com.
We sometimes add older news items; since the list is chronological, items new to this page won’t always appear at the top. You may want to scroll down to see if there are new items since the last time you visited.
The helicopter crew directed Humberside Police to a location where Trevor Cheeseman was arrested. He pleaded not guilty in December 2020. In early March 2021, Cheeseman was given a 12 month sentence, suspended four months. He was convicted of shining a laser beam towards a person providing air services, causing the laser beam to dazzle or distract that person.
From GrimsbyLive. Although the story says the sentence was 12 months with four months suspended, the headline states "Man avoids prison…" The apparent discrepancy may be due to factors of British law or judicial terms.
This was echoed in a TV report on KRDO, where a registered nurse said "In 2017, we had a crew member hit with a laser, he lost 30% of his vision in his right eye, and that was permanent damage." Another nurse told the TV reporter that after a laser illumination, "I lost my vision for a few minutes due to black circles. And then I had about a three to seven day [period] of almost just sand and painful vision for a few days."
No further details were given in the news reports. On March 1, LaserPointerSafety.com reached out to Flight for Life for more information.
Both accounts described how Flight For Life helicopter crews in Southern Colorado have been subjected to laser illuminations that have been recently increasing.
In both accounts a crew member described the light as being similar to directly looking at a camera flash. According to the Pueblo Chieftain article, "Several Flight For Life members across Colorado have had to take time off in the past to allow their eyes to heal after a laser strike."
From the Pueblo Chieftain and KDRO
On August 17 2020, the aircraft was searching for a missing person in Keighley, West Yorkshire when it was illuminated by laser light multiple times. There was no apparent ill effect on the pilot other than closing his eyes as a reflex. The crew located the source and passed the information to ground officers.
When Benjamin Fort was arrested, he first said he had been using the laser to look for rabbits, then said he aimed the laser at a "UFO". Fort said the laser pen was inexpensive so he did not think the light would get near the helicopter.
At trial, the judge said both explanations were lies: "…the reality is there was no, and never could be, any justification for what you did."
During the trial, Fort's past issues with alcohol, severe depression, and paranoia were raised. For example, at the first sentencing hearing in January 2021, Fort arrived drunk. Three officers took him to a holding cell to sleep off his inebriation. Sentencing was re-scheduled for February 26 2021.
On that date, the judge said he wanted Fort to spend years in prison because he was an "idiot" for aiming at the helicopter. He did not think such a long sentence would be sustained at appeal, so he handed down a sentence of six months.
From BBC News and the Telegraph & Argus
The pilot was able to direct ground officers to a home where the two teens were arrested for discharging a laser at an aircraft while in flight.
Both the pilot and tactical officer had the laser light shined into their eyes. They found the source was a vehicle. A deputy on the ground stopped Gladu, who told them he had been watching the stars. He said he was not aiming at the helicopter and any hit was accidental.
During the arrest, Gladu was found to have 7 grams of crystal methamphetamine in a baggie.
Gladu, who lives in Riverview in Hillsborough County, was charged with misuse of laser lighting and possession of a controlled substance.
Woman Pleads Guilty to Aiming Laser Pointer at Police Aircraft
RICHMOND, Va. – A Henrico woman pleaded guilty today to aiming a laser pointer at a police aircraft while at the Robert E. Lee Monument during a period of civil unrest.
According to court documents, on June 4, Amanda Robinson, 33, traveled to the Robert E. Lee Monument traffic circle located in Richmond. While at the traffic circle, Robinson pointed her laser pointer at a 2006 Cessna aircraft flying above her location operated by police officers of the Metropolitan Aviation Unit. The Metropolitan Aviation Unit officers were conducting aerial surveillance patrols during a period of civil unrest. In aiming the laser pointer, Robinson struck the aircraft on at least two separate occasions and disrupted the pilot’s vision. Using an onboard camera, the police officers identified Robinson as the individual aiming the laser pointer and directed police units to her location. Upon arriving to the Robert E. Lee Monument traffic circle, police patrol units detained Robinson and recovered a green laser pointer from her possession.
Click to read more...
Bakersfield Man Indicted for Laser Strikes on Sheriff Helicopter
FRESNO, Calif. — Andrew Nathan Hernandez, 18, of Bakersfield, was arrested today for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, on Dec. 26, 2020, Hernandez aimed the beam of a laser pointer at the Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter Air-1. Hernandez is scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bakersfield Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Hernandez faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charge is only an allegation; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The January 18 2021 incident resulted in declaring the gathering an "unlawful assembly" so police could legally disperse the crowd.
In a tweet, San Jose police said of the laser strike "This is not only a felony but extremely dangerous for our pilot and crew. This will not be tolerated."
From a San Francisco Chronicle article (paywall) excerpted at Patch.com
On September 2 2020, a National Police Air Service helicopter with a crew of three was searching for a missing female teen at about 2:40 am when it was hit by five or six "bright green, sharp lights" lasting 5-10 seconds each. The pilot was momentarily blinded and was disoriented; another crew member was dazzled. The crew abandoned the search due to the pilot's loss of vision.
Ground officers went to a location pinpointed by the helicopter's thermal imaging camera. They smelled marijuana and found William Andrew David James Fellowes with a laser pen. He later told police he had been pointing at stars and the pilot got in his way. He said he did not know the sky light was a helicopter and thought it was a bird, a satellite or a hot air balloon.
Fellowes pleaded guilty to directing a laser beam towards a moving police helicopter in violation of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act of 2018.
At trial the prosector said the aircraft was circling at 1,000 feet with its flying lights illuminated. He said the aircraft would have been obvious to ground observers.
The court was told that Fellowes had 30 previous offenses, including battery, possession of a knife, criminal damage, theft, and possession of cannabis with intent to supply.
Fellowes defense barrister said he "now realized how serious his actions had been and was remorseful for what he had done."
The judge found that Fellowes had not deliberately meant to harm the crew but his actions could have resulted in an accident, and did result in diverting the missing person search.
After sentencing, a South Wales Police superintendent said "National Police Air Service are a valuable partner who regularly assist us with our policing operations and searches. On this occasion they were performing a vital duty and assisting us to look for a vulnerable and suicidal young girl who had been reported missing…. The actions of this individual not only prevented them from carrying out these important duties but potentially could have had devastating effects in causing the helicopter to crash."
The head of safety at the National Police Air Service said during 2020 there had been an average of six laser attacks per month on its aircraft.
From Wales Online. The article includes photos and a video from the police helicopter.
The pilot was able to direct ground officer's to the laser's location. Jason Ogle had a laser in his hand but threw it inside a house's doorway as deputies approached.
Screenshot from Sheriff's Office video. Jason Ogle's body and head is the gray blob above the beam location in the middle of the screen.
Ogle was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot.
The pilot sought medical treatment for unspecified issues with his eyes.
From ClickOrlando.com. Video from the helicopter is available on the web page.
The pilot helped guide ground officers to a home where they met Fredy A. Contreras. He initially denied involvement. But after being told the laser beam was on video, he admitted pointing the laser at the helicopter "for fun."
Contreras was arrested and charged with obstruction and with laser use against an aircraft. In addition, his case will be referred to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and to the U.S. Attorney for possible federal prosecution, which has a penalty of up to five years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine.
A police spokesperson said "Pointing a laser at an aircraft is extremely dangerous as it can hinder the pilot’s ability to handle the aircraft and interfere with the equipment on board. The police department wants the general public to know that this is unlawful.”
From the Atlanta Journal Constitution and MSN News
Police went in through the unlocked back door and after a struggle, arrested a 43-year-old man. In the home's freezer, police found a laser pointer, as well as two imitation firearms elsewhere on the property.
The man is expected to be charged with endangering the safe operation of an aircraft, reckless conduct endangering life, possession of a prohibited weapon [the laser], assaulting police and resisting arrest.
Cosmin-Iulian Alexa of Burton-on-Trent, a market town in the West Midlands, pleaded guilty to shining a laser beam at the helicopter on September 15 2019.
In a November 3 2020 sentencing hearing in Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court, Alexa said he had a lack of understanding of the consequences.
Alexa was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison. He could have received 12 months, but the prosecution suspended this because Alexa pleaded guilty and showed remorse for his actions.
In addition, he had an 8-week nightly curfew, had to pay £85 (USD $111) in court costs and a £122 ($160) victims surcharge, and had his laser pen confiscated.
From Derbyshire Live
Screenshot from Lee County Sheriff's Office video which is available on Facebook, link here. The person on the left is aiming a laser at the helicopter. The bright green beam is not visible in this photo because the infrared (non-visible heat) camera is in use.
The helicopter crew directed ground units to the three persons, who were getting candy at the time.Click to read more...
Lasing of aircraft happens "regularly" during night operations, and usually the source is in Mexico. In February 2020, it happened "several times in a shift and over several days as well" according to a special operations supervisor. The Yuma Sector Border Patrol's Foreign Operations Branch contacted the government of Mexico, who tried but were unable to apprehend laser perpetrators.
Later in the year (approximately October 2020), an operation was conducted in Texas to specifically identify perpetrators. Two persons suspected of lasing aircraft were arrested in the Mexican city of Acuña.
The special operations supervisor said the goal is to not only locate and arrest laser perpetrators, but to stop lasing of border patrol aircraft from happening.
From a November 2 2020 story in The Desert Review
David Whitaker, 22, was stopped in a vehicle. An officer said that Whitaker was trying to see how far the laser would be visible, and knew he was aiming at a helicopter.
He was arrested for pointing a laser at an aircraft, and was held in jail on $25,000 bail.
A Missoula, Montana man today admitted he aimed a laser beam at an airplane as it was approaching the Great Falls airport, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
Brian John Loven, 42, pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. Loven faces a maximum five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Chief Judge Morris set sentencing for Feb. 25 2021. Loven was released.
The prosecution said in court documents that at about 9:40 p.m. on March 3 2020, two pilots operating a SkyWest flight reported that on their descent to the Great Falls airport, the plane was hit with a bright green laser that lit up the cockpit. The pilots reported that the incident occurred on the east end of town in the area of Giant Springs State Park.
Cascade County Sheriff’s deputies dispatched to the area located a Jeep driving slowly through the parking lot of Heritage Park, which was closed at the time. Loven was a passenger. The driver told deputies that she was learning how to drive a manual transmission car. While speaking with the driver, deputies noticed a small, black pen-like device sticking out of the center cup holder and asked about the item. The driver retrieved the device, said it was a laser pointer and activated it. The laser pointer projected a green light onto the dashboard.
Deputies interviewed Loven, who admitted to shining the laser at an airplane while it was approaching the airport. Loven explained that he was unaware it was a federal offense to shine a laser at a plane and just wanted to “test out the distance of the laser.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Starnes is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Transportation Security Administration, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office and Airport Security.
Updated February 25 2021
Loven was sentenced on Feb. 25 to three years of probation. U.S. government prosecutors had recommended 15 to 21 months in prison, based on sentencing guidelines.
Contrary to some news reports, the only punishment was probation according to a spokesperson for the U.S. District Attorney's office who spoke to LaserPointerSafety.com on March 1 2021.
A story by KRTV news quoted court documents saying that "Loven’s lengthy criminal history spans three decades and includes convictions for burglary, theft, and various public nuisance crimes. At 42 years of age, Loven shows no signs of slowing down or aging out of his criminal conduct."
It is not known why Loven was given more lenient punishment than prosecutors sought.
From a February 25 2021 press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana, and KRTV.com
From NBC San Diego
US: Two separate arrests for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter; in one, pilot blinded for 3-5 minutes
On September 22 2020, 29-year-old Ryan Hutton was arrested for aiming a green laser pointer at the helicopter while he was on a boat. The helicopter had been on a burglary call. The pilot's vision in his right eye was affected for about three to five minutes "like a flashbulb going off in front of his eye" according to a news story.
Hutton told arresting officers he thought the helicopter was a drone.
A day later, 60-year-old Gregory Marr aimed at the Sheriff's Office helicopter while they were conducting a search. Officers from nearby Flagler County were directed to Marr's home.
Both men were charged with pointing a laser at a driver or pilot.
There had been previous reports of laser interference in late June 2020.
From the Nanaimo News Bulletin and CTV News
Charges laid after laser pointed at HAWCS and patrol units
Investigators have laid multiple drug, weapons and Aeronautics Act charges following an incident where a laser was pointed at several officers.
On Friday, July 17, 2020, at approximately 2:50 a.m., Helicopter Air Watch for Community Safety (HAWCS) was responding to a call for service when a laser was pointed into the eyes of the Tactical Flight Officer working in HAWCS. Minutes later, a laser was also shone into the eyes of patrol officers who were in two different marked police vehicles in the downtown area. The Tactical Flight Officer was able to determine that the source of the laser came from an apartment located in the 200 block of 15 Avenue S.E.
Patrol units attended the apartment and conducted a door knock, however the occupants refused to answer the door. Later that day, investigators were able to collect additional evidence and as a result conducted a search warrant on the apartment.
The following items were seized during the search:
- 993.2 grams of methamphetamine, worth approximately $60,000
- $20,725 in Canadian currency
- A Class 3B laser
- Approximately 20 kg of an unknown substance, suspected to be a cutting agent
- A sawed-off shotgun
- A Browning .308 Winchester rifle
- Numerous rounds of ammunition
- Other items related to drug trafficking and fraud
“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a serious offence that we will investigate thoroughly,” says Staff Sergeant Jodi Gach of the CPS District 1 General Investigations Unit. “In this case, investigators came together very quickly to identify the offender, and as a result a significant amount of methamphetamine and firearms were seized by police.”
Above: Police photo of laser seized from Kamran Sattar. Below: Similar-looking lasers are available on eBay's U.S. site. The seller claims this laser is 5 milliwatts — the highest legal power for a laser to be sold as a pointer in the U.S.
Rudy Alvarez of Lemon Grove was charged in federal court today with knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at a San Diego Police helicopter as the aircraft flew over protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
According to a federal complaint, the incident occurred at a large demonstration that passed through the area of 500 University Avenue in Hillcrest on June 6 2020 at 8:30 p.m. Two officers from the San Diego Police Department’s Air Support Unit were monitoring the crowd in a marked San Diego Police Department helicopter. The officers reported that one of the demonstrators in the crowd was shining a laser at their aircraft that impeded their ability to safely operate the helicopter.
Click to read more...
He was said to have received injuries to his eyes; the nature and severity of the injuries were not reported.
Transport Canada opened an investigation into the incident.
From AeroTime News Hub, official CADORS report. See also Canadian airline pilots' March 11 2020 reaction to this and other laser incidents.
A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was lased by People’s Republic of China (PRC) navy destroyer 161 on Feb. 17 while flying in airspace above international waters approximately 380 miles west of Guam.
The P-8A was operating in international airspace in accordance with international rules and regulations. The PRC navy destroyer’s actions were unsafe and unprofessional.
Additionally, these acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea. CUES specifically addresses the use of lasers that could cause harm to personnel or damage to equipment. The destroyer’s actions were also inconsistent with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC regarding rules of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters.
The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A. Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.
The P-8A is assigned to VP-45, based out of Jacksonville, Florida, and is forward-deployed to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. The squadron conducts routine operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
U.S Navy aircraft routinely fly in the Philippine Sea and have done so for many years. U.S. Navy aircraft and ships will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.
U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest numbered fleet in the world, and with the help of 35 other maritime-nation allies and partners, the U.S. Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than a century, providing credible, ready forces to help preserve peace and prevent conflict.
Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATE February 28 2020: The day after the above press release, the U.S. Navy posted a photo on its Instagram account showing an island and an inset rave light show.
The text of the Navy's post read:
"#ICYMI [in case you missed it] The Chinese Navy recently pointed a laser in an unsafe and unprofessional manner at a #USNavy P-8A flying in airspace above international waters. These acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea."
The laser aimed at the P-8A aircraft was from a destroyer, not an island. The beams were not visible to human eyes and of course, they were not from a laser light show.
From The Drive. Thank you to Leon McLin for bringing this update to our attention.
On February 15, 2020 at approximately 8:50 p.m., an Ornge aircraft was struck by a green laser in the area of Richmond and Sherbourne Street in the downtown Toronto area. The aircraft was on route back to base at Billy Bishop Airport after completing a call to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The aircraft returned to base without further incident. A report was filed with Toronto Police for investigation as well as a Directed Bright Light Illumination Report with Transport Canada.
As a result of the strike, an Ornge pilot and paramedic sustained an eye injury and required evaluation from a physician at a local Toronto hospital.
A video of the strike was captured by the flight crew and provided to Toronto Police.
Pointing lasers at aircraft can:
- Distract pilots
- Cause temporary or permanent blindness
- Create a glare in the cockpit affecting pilot vision
- Cause further injury to Ornge patients
- Distract or injure Ornge paramedic
Under the Aeronautics Act, if an individual is convicted of pointing a laser at an aircraft, they could face up to:
- $100,000 in fines
- 5 years in prison
- Or both
Ornge encourages anyone who witnessed this incident to contact Toronto Police and Transport Canada. Anyone witnessing lasers being pointed towards aircraft can contact their local police or Transport Canada.
In 2019, Ornge had three reported laser strikes on our aircraft. In 2020, there have been five reported laser strikes on our aircraft.
For more information about laser strikes, feel free to visit this Laser Strike Campaign page by Transport Canada.
From an Ornge press release. No further information on the status of the pilot and paramedic was available.
At about the same time a day earlier, another small aircraft was targeted near the airport.
In both cases, the aircraft was able to land safely but a perpetrator was not found.
From 1 News
According to a February 25 2020 news report, "Police say the kids thought it was funny but after speaking with officers, they realized the potential damage they could've done and apologized. Watsonville police say they're now working with the families to get the kids involved in extra-curricular activities."
52-year-old Daniel Clair Maloney was arrested on two misdemeanors: laser use against an aircraft and obstruction. According to police, when asked by officers why he aimed the laser, Maloney said he was "just curious as to why a helicopter was in the air."
Daniel Clair Maloney
Maloney was released on a $3,700 bond.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A spokesperson for the air ambulance charity said "This was clearly very risky for the guys up there. Fortunately, the were not on an emergency mission but clearly it is a very serious incident."
Police were searching for the perpetrator.
From the Swindon Advertiser
The helicopter crew spotted a man on a construction site with a laser, who left the construction parking field in a Ford Escape SUV. The driver was found to be Rolando Yague, 60.
He was charged with misuse of a laser pointer, a third-degree felony. Due to previous convictions, he could have received up to 10 years in prison.
At trial in mid-February 2020, Yague was acquitted of the charge. His lawyer told the Miami Herald that the area had many construction workers all wearing orange vests and that "There was absolutely no direct evidence. No video. No physical evidence. No laser pointer was ever found. Not a single person could identify Rolando Yague as having a laser in his possession at that field.”
Yague's dealings with the justice system are not over. Because of a 1988 prior conviction for armed robbery and attempted murder, Yague was on probation at the time of the laser incident. He was jailed for violating his probation by being arrested. He must convince a judge that, because he was acquitted of the charge, he did not violate his probation conditions.
From the Miami Herald
A 44-year-old man was arrested and was charged with possession of a restricted weapon. (New Zealand has strict laws about laser registration and use.) His court date was set for February 25.
A police spokesperson said "The lasering of an aircraft is totally unacceptable behaviour and could cause serious harm to the crew of Eagle who are there for the protection and safety of all of Christchurch."
Hamish Walker, Member of Parliament from Clutha-Southland, issued a press release saying the incident is evidence that the current law is too weak:
“People continue to point lasers at helicopters and planes which demonstrates the current penalties in place are doing little to deter offenders.
“My High-Power Laser Pointer Offences and Penalties Bill will not only deter offenders but also raise awareness about an issue which poses a great risk to pilots and passengers.
“The Bill proposes to double the maximum fine to $4000 and double the term of imprisonment from three to six months. It will also make it an offence to have a high-power laser in possession in both public and private places.
“Pilots continue to ask for harsher penalties as incidents keep occurring but this is being completely ignored by this Government.
“Laser incidents have increased 130 per cent since 2014, with 717 recorded incidents from 2014-2018 showing how crucial my Members Bill will be if we want to deter offenders.
“It’s time the Government stopped putting politics before safety and supported my Bill.”
From Stuff.co.nz (first day usage and arrest of laser suspect), and National (Hamish Walker press release)
According to the Oxford Mail, "the extent of his injury is unknown at this time [Feb. 19], although it is expected he will make a full recovery and return to training."
The next night, another training aircraft was hit by a laser in the same general area. No injury was reported.
An investigating Thames Valley Police officer said "The trainee pilot of the first aircraft suffered injuries to the back of his eye as a result of this attack and the injuries may result in him being unable to fulfill a career in aviation. The recklessness of such acts not only endangers the aircraft and all passengers on board, but also those on the ground, as attacks such as this seriously jeopardize safety."
Police were asking anyone with information to contact them.
From the Oxford Mail
UPDATE: According to a February 25 2020 article in the Evening Standard, "Due to the nature of the injuries he is currently unable to fly." The article also described an incident where a green laser was aimed at an RAF C-17 cargo plane near RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, on February 22 2020. This is roughly the same area as where the two training flights were illuminated on February 4 and 5.
CHP pilot Jan Sears was directly illuminated by the blue laser beam. He later described the effect: "So it's pitch black and we're flying and all of a sudden it's like the sun just came out. It took me a minute to get my bearings…." Sears was able to control the aircraft by activating the autopilot. The CHP flight officer directed deputies on the ground to the suspect's location.
He was identified as Christopher Larsen, 33. He was charged with two state felonies for discharging a laser and aiming a laser at an aircraft, and may also be charged with a federal felony.
Sears said Larsen was "using a laser that's illegal, much more expensive and highly powerful." He noted that "In a week we are lased once maybe twice; sometimes we catch them, sometimes we don't."
A laser similar in design to the one Larson was found with
Sears told NBC Bay Area that he was "still having residual effects with my left eye. I feel that something has happened." He said he had experience with green lasers before, but "this was a blue laser. It was the worst type to get involved with." Protective eyewear was on board, but it was intended to reduce green light, not blue.
From CBS San Francisco Bay Area, GoodDay Sacramento, KSRO and NBC Bay Area
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Most lasing incidents involve green light, so glasses that reduce the intensity of green light can be useful. Glasses are available which reduce green and blue — and even green, blue and red. However, the more wavelengths of light that the glasses attenuate, the more overall light is also dimmed. Plus this can make it more difficult to differentiate colors on the aircraft instrument panel. More information is on the page about laser glare protection eyewear.
This came as a result of laser strikes on airplanes approaching Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. Since November 2019 there were three illuminations from an area of Effingham County, 10-15 miles northwest of Savannah.
The county sheriff said that additional laser strikes had occurred prior to November, and the general area of the strikes was recently identified.
Anyone with information can call the Effingham County Sheriff's Office at 912-754-3449.
UPDATE November 11 2020: A 48-year-old from Rincon Georgia was indicted for aiming a laser pointer at aircraft on three separate occasions from November 2019 to January 2020. Details are below in a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia.
Click to read more...
On July 18 2019, the helicopter was searching near Stephen Reid's home when the man pointed the laser at it. His location was identified, and Reid threw the laser into his back yard when illuminated by the helicopter spotlight.
Officers on the ground had to threaten to force their way into Reid's home before he opened the door. A blue and a green laser pen were found by a canine unit. Reid admitted the lasers were his.
In court in January 2020, Reid's attorney said Reid was "plagued by police helicopters searching for individuals…. Something got into his head and he utilized this laser pen to cause what could have been a catastrophe."
On January 29 2020, the judge gave Reid a four-month sentence suspended for 18 months, plus he had to complete a 60-day rehabilitation program.
The judge said "Any distraction and that helicopter is crashing into an urban area with devastating consequences. You were irritated, frustrated and annoyed at what they were doing interrupting your audiobook and it’s clear you were not thinking about the consequences of your behaviour. By the finest margin I can imagine I can suspend this sentence. You’ve caught me on a good day."
On January 22 2020, a man in an industrial area aimed a green laser pointer at aircraft near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, including a United Airbus A320 and Cessna Skyhawk planes that were practicing takeoffs and landings. Most reports said four aircraft were targeted, although airport police quoted in one story said only two airplanes were struck. The same story indicated it was the Cessna student pilot who reported eyesight problems.
A Manatee County Sheriff's Office helicopter was sent to investigate. The man aimed his laser at the helicopter as well as throwing objects towards it. The crew was able to pinpoint his location, about a quarter mile from the runway approach.
When deputies arrived on the scene, they found 41-year-old Charlie James Chapman Jr. He was on a forklift, and made a "striking motion" with a hammer towards the officers. They used a Taser two times to subdue Chapman. A laser pointer was found in his pants pocket. He was taken to a hospital, and later to jail.
Charlie James Chapman Jr.
Chapman was charged with aggravated assault on an officer, pointing a laser at a pilot with injury, pointing a laser at a pilot without injury and resisting without violence.
The sheriff's office released video from the helicopter:
Some stills from the video:
The laser is aimed towards the helicopter.
An almost direct hit on the camera lens.
The man throws a small object (arrow) towards the helicopter — not reaching it, of course. The forklift can be seen on the right.
In an infrared view, officers (white shapes) move in to confront the perpetrator.
Chapman was apprehended at 8224 25th Court East in Sarasota, which is the worksite of Vulcan Materials Co., a ready-mix concrete supplier according to Google Maps.
From the Manatee County Sheriff's Office press release, the Orlando Sentinel via MSN, WRCBTV.com, ABC13.com, the Washington Post, WCTV, USA Today, and many other news sources and services. Thanks to Greg Makhov, Jack Dunn and Donna Colona for also bringing this to our attention.
When his home was pinpointed, officers went to the location. James M. Rhodes, 37, admitted pointing the laser at the aircraft.
He was indicted on felony charges of interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser.
After evaluation, a psychologist said Rhodes was unable to assist his attorney due to a "mild intellectual disability." Treatment would not help his condition, which was not severe enough to warrant institutionalization.
Based on the evaluation, the charges were dismissed.
From the Columbus Dispatch
She said laser illuminations can cause pilots to land prematurely, and if they have temporary vision problems, they cannot fly.
Mayer also said "We see an uptick right after the holidays. I think people get the lasers for Christmas gifts and want to try them out, but they are absolutely picking the wrong target when they hit an aircraft."
According to Mayer, Flight for Life made six reports to the FBI in December, regarding laser interference.
From CBS4 Denver
A spokesperson said the crew was "safe" and the operation involved the "apprehension of violent offenders."
It was not clear if the "violent offenders" referenced were the ones using the laser, or if the offenders were the initial target of the helicopter (prior to the laser attack).
Devon Live reported there were 50 laser attacks on NPAS crews in 2018.
From Devon Live
It is not known if the pointers damaged the drone's camera, rendering it unflyable, or if the operator could still fly the drone but decided to land it.
A video posted by Perseus999 includes this commentary from him or her:
This is the moment a police drones is being forced to crash and land by protesters in Chile using simple pointer lasers to blind the drone.
These protesters didn't use any physical or gun force to bring the drone down. Instead, they used another form of technology: lasers. A lot of bright green laser beams were pointed in unison at the drone, which can be seen moving erratically, before quickly falling down to Earth.
A few theories about how the drone was brought down by the lasers are floating around many social media. Some believe the lasers are powerful enough to melt the plastic on the drone if it is a cheap drone. Some others believe the lasers' lights would blind the drone operator's vision through the camera, and the drone would go into autopilot mode and land as a failsafe. Others think that with that many lasers pointing at the drone, it would overheat and malfunction. Speculations that between 40 to 50 lasers were being pointed at the drone have circulated online, and the video certainly demonstrates that these estimates may be true. If that is the case, that's certainly enough lasers to blind the drone's camera lens.
Videos found from @Emily_Lykos | @Carabdechile
COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM: The overheating theories are probably incorrect. Cameras are known to be sensitive to laser light — often much more sensitive than human eyes. So the camera sensor could be damaged, or even if not damaged, causing glare making it difficult or impossible to safely fly.
Via a YouTube search for "Drone with laser pointer"
A YouTube video which may have the same footage from a commercial TV station, is here.
A similar situation occurred in Egypt in July 2013, with a helicopter targeted by dozens of beams. A detailed discussion of this incident is here.
Thanks to MVC of Chile who brought the commercial footage to our attention.
He told officers that he aimed the green laser light at the aircraft to see how far it would reach. He said he did not know how serious a hazard the laser was to aircraft.
Officers confiscated the laser, which had been purchased online. A photo shows it to be a "Laser 303" which is a certain type of handheld laser form factor.
Photo by the Ferndale Police Department
During the disorder, young teens threw dozens of petrol bombs, paint bombs, bricks and bottles at police patrols, and burned a barricade. It was the third night of the incidents when the PSNI helicopter was targeted.
From ITV News, Derry Journal
At 11:30 pm on August 13 Jet2 flight LS274, a Boeing 737-36N arriving from Alicante, reported seeing a laser said to be four miles from the runway. At 12:48 am on August 14 Jet2 flight LS250, a Boeing 737-8K2 arriving from Fuerteventura, reported a laser at a location 5 1/2 miles from the runway.
It is not known if the two laser beams came from one site which was judged to be at different distances, from a single source which moved from one location to another, or from two independent sources.
After West Yorkshire Police were notified, a National Police Air Service helicopter was dispatched to escort incoming flights. No further laser incidents were reported.
Ward cauncillor Graham Latty said "It’s a dreadful risk trying to bring a plane down, especially as Leeds-Bradford is in a domestic setting, with houses on three sides. People who would do that clearly don’t know what they’re doing. and as a councillor, and a human being, I find it ridiculous and disgusting…. It just shows, quite frankly, the depths people will go to. They haven’t got any brains."
A UK Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said: “Anyone convicted of shining a laser at an aircraft could face a significant fine or even prison. We strongly urge anyone who sees lasers being used in the vicinity of an airport to contact the police immediately.”
From the Yorkshire Evening Post, Examiner Live and Wharfdale Observer. Flight data from Flightradar24.
From Fox San Antonio
According to the Regina's captain, the aircrew had been wearing protective safety lenses "just in case."
The exact date of the incident was not reported but came sometime in mid- to late June 2019.
A report by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute said the laser came from a tanker, and that "there was no obvious link between alleged attacks [to U.S. aircraft in the South China Sea and near Djibouti] and the laser that was aimed at Canada's surveillance helicopter."
A CBC News article a day earlier said Canadian military "reported that someone on board a Chinese fishing boat pointed a laser at a Canadian CH-148 Cyclone helicopter operating near the Strait of Taiwan recently. No one was injured in that incident and there no was damage to the aircraft. It is unclear whether fishing vessel was part of the People's Armed Forces Maritime Militia, which operates a host of civilian vessels in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea."
It is not known if these were two separate incidents, or if there was a single laser incident with some confusion over whether the source was a tanker or a fishing boat.
From the Canadian Global Affairs Institute via The Maritime Executive, and CBC News
The flight continued to Orlando's airport and landed about 15 minutes after the incident.
At FAA's request, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office was asked to investigate a possible location for the laser. Deputies found a house with a bright green porch light, but the residents said they did not own a laser pointer.
The pilot was referred for medical examination, as per WestJet's standard operating procedure.
WestJet released a statement: "Laser incidents pose a serious concern to crew and aircraft safety and have serious repercussions for those found to be shining lasers in a manner that could result in injury or damage. These incidents are reported immediately to local authorities for further investigation. Pilots are extremely focused during all phases of flight, but especially during take-off and landing, when most laser incidents occur. When any sort of light enters the flight deck, pilots are trained to look away and maintain focus but they must also maintain vigilant with respect to their surroundings and monitor the apron prior to landing. Pilots take on an incredible responsibility controlling an aircraft, and it is WestJet’s duty to ensure a safe work environment for them to operate in. Any pilot who reports being struck by a laser is required for safety and health reasons to have an ophthalmology evaluation."
From the Aviation Voice, WESH.com, News965.com, and ClickOrlando.com
COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM
It is almost a certainty that the pilot's eyes were not burned by the laser exposure. A laser beam that traveled 10,000 feet would have to be extraordinarily powerful to even potentially cause an eye injury.
Laser beams spread out with distance. At 10,000 feet a laser beam would expand to be at least three feet wide. Only a fraction of the beam power would go through the pupil of the pilot's eye. (In fact, of the original laser irradiance, only 0.003 percent would go through the pilot's pupil.)
What power would it take? A 190 watt laser with a very narrow 1 milliradian beam has a Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance of about 10,000 feet. This means the laser light is generally considered safe after the NOHD distance. This does not mean that just inside the NOHD there would be an injury. Laser safety standards have a built in "safety factor" or "reduction factor."
To have a 50/50 chance of causing the smallest medically detectable eye injury at a distance of 10,000 feet, the laser would have to be about 1,900 watts at a 1 mrad divergence.
By comparison, the most powerful handheld lasers currently available are in the 3 watt range with claimed wattage (not confirmed) up to about 6 watts. Most laser pointers used in incidents are less than 1 watt.
It may be that someone aimed a non-handheld, plug-in-the-wall laser beam at the pilot. Even here, 190 to 1,900 watts is fairly powerful. There are some industrial and research lasers much more powerful than this, but to the best of our knowledge the only non-handheld lasers involved in aircraft lasings have been from laser light shows. For such shows, 60 to 80 watts is about the most powerful from a single laser source. There were no reported outdoor laser light shows the night of the WestJet incident.
Some news articles gave an impression that, because the pilot's eyes were burned, he or she went for a medical examination. But as explained above, this is routine policy. WestJet requires "any pilot who reports being struck by a laser … to have an ophthalmology evaluation."
It could be that the pilot had an eye effect, such as irritation from the bright flash of light, or that the pilot rubbed his or her eyes so hard that they scratched their cornea — a painful condition which heals.
For more information
More information about laser eye effects on pilots is here. A quick summary is that 1) there have been no proven or documented eye injuries to pilots according to U.S. FAA, U.K. CAA and Transport Canada, and 2) top laser safety experts have written that "There is no evidence to suggest that lasers pointed at airplane cockpits damage pilots’ eyesight."
A table listing eye effects and incidents reported to U.S. FAA in past years is on the laser/aircraft incident statistics page.
The aircraft was on routine patrol when it was illuminated by laser light from an apartment balcony. Ground officers were directed to a high-rise condo where they found Vladamir Altman. He told officers he was the person who aimed at the helicopter.
The aircraft was flying in southern Scotland between Newcastle and Prestwick and was over Sanquhar when it was illuminated by the laser light. At the time, police described the action as "extremely reckless" and said it could have had "catastrophic consequences" for the aircraft.
From the Cumnock Chronicle and BBC News