A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

Canada: Four laser illuminations over Vancouver Island

A Cessna pilot reported being illuminated by a green laser for about 10 seconds on July 26 2020. Three other laser incidents were reported by airplane and helicopter pilots on July 28. All four illuminations occurred over Saltair, on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

There had been previous reports of laser interference in late June 2020.

From the Nanaimo News Bulletin and CTV News

Canada: Man aims laser at aircraft, police; results in 14 criminal charges

The following press release dated July 22 2020 is from the City of Calgary Newsroom:


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
Kamran Sattar, 44, of Calgary has been charged with 14 criminal offences including possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, obstruction of a peace officer, possession of a restricted/prohibited firearm with ammunition, careless storage of a firearm and breach of probation. Sattar was also charged with two offences under the Canadian Aviation Regulations and Aeronautics Act including projection of a directed bright light source at an aircraft and creating a hazard to safety.

“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.”




Laser seized Canada Calgary 2020-07-17 squashed

Above: Police photo of laser seized from Kamran Sattar. Below: Similar-looking lasers are available on eBay's U.S. site. The seller states this laser is 5 milliwatts — the highest legal power for a laser to be sold as a pointer in the U.S.

Laser similar to seized Canada Calgary 2020-07-17 squashed

Canada: Passenger plane pilot said to have eye injuries near Ottawa

On February 15 2020, the first officer of a Jazz Aviation De Havilland Dash-8 was 14 nautical miles from Ottawa International Airport when he was struck by a green laser beam aimed at the aircraft, which seats around 50 passengers. The captain requested medical assistance for the first officer. Upon landing, he was taken to a hospital for an evaluation.

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.

US: Navy says China aimed invisible "military-grade" laser at Navy aircraft

The following is from a U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs press release, posted February 27 2020:

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.

Canada: Pilot and paramedic have unspecified eye injuries from laser aimed at medical aircraft

The following is from a February 27 2020 press release issued by the medical transportation company Ornge:

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.

New Zealand: Student pilot illuminated twice by laser

An airplane piloted by a student was illuminated two times within five minutes by a green laser. The incident happened as the student pilot and instructor were flaying around Wellington Airport at 10:15 pm on February 25 2020.

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

US: Young teens responsible for multiple laser strikes in California

During February 2020, pilots flying near Watsonville Municipal Airport reported laser beams being aimed at their aircraft. The Watsonville Police Department's Special Investigations unit found that a group of 12-to-15 year olds was responsible. Officers confiscated a "high powered" laser.

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."

From KSBW.com

US: 52-year-old Georgia man jailed for aiming laser at police helicopter

While searching for a wanted subject, a Gwinnett County police helicopter was illuminated by a red laser February 13 2020. The crew interrupted their search and directed ground officers to a Loganville, Georgia man.

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

UK: Air ambulance helicopter aborts landing after laser pen exposure

A Wiltshire Air Ambulance helicopter on a February 20 2020 training flight aborted a landing after a laser attack. The pilot and two paramedics were attempting to land at a school in Chippenham, Wiltshire (85 miles west of London) when the illumination occurred.

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

US: Miami man acquitted of charges for aiming a laser at a police helicopter

On December 24 2018, an airliner reported being hit by a laser beam near Miami International Airport. A Miami police helicopter, sent to investigate, was also illuminated by a laser.

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

New Zealand: Lasers aimed at police helicopter the first day it is used

On February 17 2020, New Zealand Police began a five-week trial of using a helicopter in Christchurch. It was used three times the first day — and there were two incidents where lasers were aimed at the new helicopter.

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)

UK: Pilot said to have laser burn in eye

On February 4 2020, a 21-year-old student pilot suffered a suspected laser burn to his retina while flying a light aircraft on a training flight near Chipping Norton, about 75 miles northwest of London. The pilot was taken to a hospital for treatment.

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.

US: Pilot has eye problems after laser aimed at California police aircraft

After several reports of lasers being aimed at military and civilian aircraft north of San Francisco, a suspect who repeatedly aimed at a California Highway Patrol (CHP) aircraft was arrested February 17 2020. It is being investigated as to whether the suspect was also responsible for the earlier laser incidents reported to Travis Air Force Base.

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.


Christopher Larsen


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.

US: Laser strikes near Savannah airport lead FBI, county to offer $2500 reward

On January 29 2020, the FBI and the Effingham County (Georgia) Sheriff's Office are offering a $2,500 reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect(s).

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.

From WJCL.com

UK: London man, 55, aims laser at helicopter over noise spoiling his audiobook

A 55-year-old northwest London man aimed a blue laser beam at a police helicopter after the noise irritated him while listening to an audiobook.

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."

From Metro.co.uk

US: Florida man shot with taser after aiming laser at aircraft and police helicopter

In a widely publicized incident, a man who aimed a laser at aircraft near a Florida airport was tased by officers sent to contact him. One pilot said the laser light went directly into his eyes, causing temporary blindness and lingering blurred vision. The pilot went to a local medical center and was discharged.

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.

US: Laser case dropped against perpetrator with "intellectual disability"

Charges were dropped January 22 2020 against a West Columbus (Ohio) man who aimed a green laser at local and state police helicopters on four days in July 2019.

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

US: Colorado first responders encounter lasers nearly every night

The program director for Flight for Life emergency medical helicopters in Colorado says "We are being tagged by lasers on virtually every leg of a flight after dark." Kathleen Mayer made the comments in a January 20 2020 interview with CBS4 in Denver.

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