A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
• The availability of inexpensive lasers
• The abundance of lasers in stores and online
• The number of lasers given as gifts
• Stronger power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes
• Green lasers, which are more visible to the human eye than red ones
• Greater awareness by pilots reporting laser incidents, due in large part to the FAA’s extensive outreach program."
The information appears in a story, written by Rob Mark, titled "What's Behind The Rise In Laser Pointer Incidents?" Some other reasons discussed in the article include the difficulty in finding perpetrators, and the fact that fines and jail do not appear to be a deterrent.
On April 11 2020, the helicopter was working on a mission to recover stolen weapons when it was illuminated by a laser "numerous" times. The laser strikes happened while flying below an approach path for the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Information from the crew eventually led to Gabriel Lopez Mathews.
He was indicted January 26 2021, pleaded guilty in April 2021 and was sentenced September 15 2021.
From CBS42 and ABC3340 News
Two frames from the South Australia Police helicopter. In the first frame the laser beam is aimed to the left of the camera. In the second frame the beam is aimed directly at the camera lens. The human eye would have a similar effect, first seeing the beam then being dazzled and flashblinded by the bright direct light.
According to the Herald Sun, the laser was "2000 times more powerful than the legal limit", which would make it 2000 milliwatts or 2 watts.
The perpetrator was found to be Mark Andrew Golka, 49, who lived in the Adelaide suburb of Woodcroft. He was said to have been drinking alcohol and taking prescription pain medication when he aimed the laser. At sentencing, the judge told Golka "…that is no excuse to having committed these offences."
Golka was sentenced to 15 months in prison, suspended. He signed a two-year good behavior bond, will be supervised for 18 months, and will perform 80 hours of community service.
After the sentencing, his lawyer said Golka was sorry for what he had done.
From ABC News and the Herald Sun. The ABC News page includes a video of the laser illumination, from which the two frames above were taken.
US: Probation and fine for "bored" man who aimed laser pointer at helicopter during Milwaukee protests
The laser strikes occurred seven times between May 31 and June 7 2021 in the summer of 2020 during protests in Milwaukee. An FBI surveillance airplane and a Wisconsin National Guard helicopter were targeted. The FBI crew began wearing anti-laser goggles to protect against bright laser light. A camera on board their aircraft was used to determine the laser's location. Ground officers then went in and arrested 39-year-old Jeremiah Belen, a resident of Milwaukee.
Belen apologized to the judge during his sentencing. He said he had the laser for astronomy pointing with his two children. He aimed at the aircraft because he was bored after being laid off during the COVID pandemic.
Prosecutors said they wanted the felony conviction to "send a message" that aiming at aircraft, especially during civil unrest, is dangerous.
Belen could have received up to five years in prison for his action, but was given probation due to no previous criminal history and having found a job since his arrest.
From 715 Newsroom, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via MSN
The unnamed suspect is 39 years old and a resident of Vernon. He is charged under the Criminal Code, and under the Aeronautics Act, and faces up to five years in prison and up to CDN $100,000 (USD $79,000) in fines.
From the Lake Country Calendar
The helicopter, working with a Royal National Lifeboat Institution all-weather lifeboat from Wicklow, was able to rescue the man.
The crew was illuminated by laser light both on their flight from Dublin Airport to the ship, and during the return trip as well. It was not stated how much the laser light adversely affected the helicopter's search.
An Garda Siochána police were unable to locate the source of the laser.
From Joe, the Independent, and Q102
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said "This was an incredibly reckless action that could have endangered the patient and crew, and Police Scotland are investigating."
As of August 11 2021, no perpetrator had been identified.
From The Scotsman and the Daily Record
On August 10, 2021, Raji Yusuf was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. The indictment alleges that on June 26, 2021, Yusuf knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at a Philadelphia Police helicopter while it was in flight.
DOT-OIG is conducting this investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Note: Indictments, informations, and criminal complaints are only accusations by the Government. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A Louisville man was sentenced last week to 2 years of probation, including 8 months of home incarceration, for aiming a laser pointer at a Louisville Metro Police helicopter.
According to court documents, Manuel Martin Salazar-Leija, Jr., 26, of Louisville, aimed the beam of a laser pointer at an LMPD helicopter on September 25, 2020, during protests in the city. Lasers can blind pilots and cause the aircraft to crash, and aiming a laser at an aircraft is a federal felony offense.
In addition to 2 years of probation and 8 months of home incarceration, United States District Court Judge David Hale ordered Salazar-Leija, Jr., to pay a $2,500 fine and the costs of his home incarceration.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weiser prosecuted the case.
Additional details come from news reports:
The helicopter was doing surveillance after a burglary when it was illuminated by the laser beam. The pilots were temporarily blinded. Salazar-Leija admitted intentionally aiming the laser at the aircraft.
In 2020, there were 181 pilot reports of laser illuminations in Kentucky, 73 of which occurred in Louisville.
Manuel Martin Salazar-Leija, Jr.
The helicopter crew directed ground officers to Cole's apartment, where they found him still holding the laser. He admitted that he had aimed it towards the helicopter.
A news report said it was a "5,000-milliwatt laser, a powerful green military-grade laser with an effective range of 10 miles."
Shannon S. Cole
Cole was charged with two counts of assault and two counts of reckless endangerment.
From News4 Nashville
COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM
A 5,000 milliwatt laser (5 watts) is relatively rare for a handheld, battery-powered device. It may be that the laser label or marketing documentation claims it is 5,000 milliwatts. But this may have been inflated for marketing purposes. Our educated guess is that the laser is probably lower powered such as 1-2 watts (1000-2000 mW).
The takeaway point is that the claimed wattage of a laser is often very different from the actual output wattage. We are not aware of any police departments with the equipment and expertise to measure the actual output power of a laser.
Also, the term "military-grade" is an imprecise term with no established meaning. Military units may use handheld battery-powered lasers in the 5 watt range, but often these have additional features such as lenses to spread out the beam for dazzling persons coming to checkpoints. A 5 watt handheld battery-powered laser can be an eye hazard (hence the additional lenses to safely spread the beam) but for offensive purposes it would not be effective to say, burn skin or damage objects.
Finally, whether the laser has an "effective rage of 10 miles" depends on what effect is desired, or is to be guarded against. The news story did not indicate specifics, but here are some safety distances for a 5 watt, 532 nanometer (green) laser with a tight beam divergence (spread) of 1 milliradian.
Direct exposure to the beam can start to cause minor but detectable eye injuries at around 500 feet. Laser safety experts say a person should be 1,640 feet or further away from such a laser in order to have a "vanishingly small chance" of an eye injury. (E.g., the Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance is 1,640 feet.)
A 5W laser could cause temporary flashblindness to about 1.5 miles; the viewer would have an afterimage that would fade, similar to after a camera's flash goes off. The laser light creates veiling glare to about 6.6 miles meaning that a viewer could not see past the laser light while it was in their eyes, but could see when the beam moved off their eyed. And, the laser light is considered a distraction to 65.6 miles, meaning that the light would be brighter to a pilot than city or airport lights.
The protesters were from the group Detroit Will Breathe, self-described as "an integrated, youth-led, militant organization fighting against police brutality and systemic racism in Detroit." During a march, at about 12:30 am, the helicopter was illuminated intermittently for about seven seconds by a laser. The pilot later told investigators that "the green laser beam resulted in temporary momentary blindness causing the incapacitation of the flight crew."
Video from the helicopter, a city bus, and local buildings led investigators to Michael Sam Hurd of Fennville, Michigan. In November 2020 federal agents raided Hurd's home. He admitted having a laser pointer.
On May 14 2021 he was charged with a federal felony with a maximum five years of prison time, and was released on $10,000 bail.
After the hearing, Hurd's lawyer said "This happened in the context of a Black Lives Matter demonstration going on, so it is not like it took place at an airport or anything…. This was during the protest march when there was excessive brutality done by the police force. Whatever actions on the part of my client — we are still trying to get to the bottom of it — I’m sure were done in defense of others.”
From the Detroit News and Fox 2 Detroit. The Detroit News article has many helicopter and surveillance photos of the incident.
The helicopter crew directed ground officers to a home where the 22-year-old was arrested. He was charged with causing fear or alarm with a laser or light to people in conveyances or others. The man faces a prison term of up to seven years and a fine of up to AUS $36,000 (USD $26,600).
From The Australian
Ground officers were able to find the vehicle on the Garden State Parkway at milepost 61. They arrested Jordan Prutzman of Tuckerton, NJ, who admitted that he pointed the laser at the helicopter.
Prutzman, 32, was charged with interference with transportation, a state charge. He may also be charged with federal crimes.
From New Jersey 101.5 and Jersey Shore Online
A New South Wales Police Force helicopter was targeted after being sent to investigate.
The teen was arrested, taken to Kogarah Police Station, and later released under the Young Offenders Act.
The arrest came just a few days after NSW police issued a statement about a spike of laser incidents involving aircraft in Sydney.
From Daily Caller and 9News
The incident occurred on April 21 2021. Wayne Wiggins told reporters he did not know the helicopter was operated by the police. He grabbed the laser, which he had purchased from a shop without an Australian-required permit, and aimed it at the aircraft because "just constantly hearing the [buzz] was annoying."
He went on to say "It's the first time I've ever been in trouble in 46 years. I'm absolutely terrified of being kept in the cell, absolutely terrified. I'm sorry for what I did and damn sure it will never happen again ... I wish I could go back and not do it all."
Wiggins speaking to reporters outside the court. He repeated his apologies and regret for the incident. From the YouTube news video.
Wiggins pleaded guilty to an act with intent to prejudice the safety of an aircraft. The offense carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.
From the Daily Mail. Story from a 9-minute 7News Australia video on YouTube.
PolAir warns about dangers of aiming laser pointers at aircraft after recent strikes
The NSW Police Force Aviation Command is warning the community about the dangers of aiming laser pointers at aircraft after a spike in recent incidents, one involving an officer whose vision was allegedly temporarily impaired.
The Command has recorded about a dozen incidents of laser pointers being aimed at their aircraft and other aircraft flying around Sydney in recent weeks.
Click to read more...
Police said the laser was first reported by a truck driver on Interstate 40 who was targeted. Then the pilot told the tower that a green laser had come from near a highway. The tower contacted police.
A witness later pointed out to police a hotel room at a Quality Inn in Mt. Juliet, east of downtown Nashville, from where a laser was being aimed out the window. A man in the room was arrested by Mt. Juliet police.
As of May 5, no charges had yet been filed.
From WKRN and WSMV
A man has been arrested for allegedly pointing a laser at a police helicopter in Keysborough, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.
After the alleged incident, police searched a home on Amanda Court. They say they found the laser pointer hidden in a basket in the front yard of the house.
Police say that they entered the house and found a man hiding under a pile of clothes in the bedroom. He was arrested.
Police will charge the 44-year-old on summons with prejudicing the safe operation of an aircraft, interfering with crew or aircraft, reckless conduct endangering life, possessing a prohibited weapon, and assault police.
The aircraft was on approach to Savannah Air National Guard Base when it was "deliberately struck by a high-powered laser for about one minute" according to the FBI. A crew member had temporary eye damage from the laser strike.
Anyone with information about the March 9 laser strike is asked to contact FBI Atlanta at 770-216-3000 or go to tips. fbi.gov.
From Military.com,The Advance, and the Associated Press
Derbyshire police officers were sent to an address to speak to the persons involved. There was no word of an arrest.
From Derbyshire Live
The helicopter had been doing training approaches to Bellingham International Airport when the cockpit was illuminated. Deputies on the ground located 34-year-old Ronald Gregory Boettcher. He said he did not have a laser and did not aim a laser at an aircraft. Deputies found he did have a laser pointer. He was arrested on suspicion of unlawful discharge of a laser.
The CBP agent's medical condition and prognosis was not available.
From The Columbian and TickleTheWire.com
On June 4 2020, a green laser beam was aimed at the aircraft, which was monitoring civil unrest at the [Robert E.] Lee Monument, a 21-foot tall statue of the Confederate general sitting on a 40-foot pedestal. The air crew directed officers on the ground. They found and arrested 33-year-old Amanda Robinson.
In November 2020 she pleaded guilty. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the mother of 4, who had no previous criminal record, could have been jailed for up to 6 months. Both her lawyer and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia asked for no jail time, because Robinson did not know that shining a laser at aircraft was hazardous, and because she cooperated with prosecutors.
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch
"On 15 March 2021 flight VS453, operating from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, returned to Heathrow after take-off due to a laser beam incident upon departure.
The safety and security of our people and our customers is paramount and this was a precautionary step taken by the operating crew.
We'd like to thank our customers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
All customers were offered overnight accommodation and we are working hard to ensure they are able to continue their journeys as soon as possible.
As is standard procedure for a laser incident, we swiftly notified the police and remain in close contact with them and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)."
The Boeing Dreamliner B789 aircraft took off from Heathrow at 9:34 pm GMT. At about 10:00 pm, while flying at an altitude of 41,000 ft, it began a U-turn southwest of Paris. The flight landed back at Heathrow at 10:47 pm.
Approximately 10:00 pm the aircraft begins its U-turn
A few minutes later, it is on its way back to Heathrow…
… landing at 10:47 pm.
According to the Aviation Herald, the pilot was climbing out of Heathrow when the captain was illuminated by a laser beam. His or her condition worsened, with vision in only one eye, so the crew decided to turn back. They declared a "pan-pan", which is an urgent situation not posing an immediate danger. (This call is one level down from a "mayday", meaning imminent danger to life or the aircraft.)
The Aviation Herald also cited an Israeli media report that the laser perpetrator had been arrested.
From the Aviation Herald and the Daily Mail. Graphics from FlightAware.com
COMMENTARY BY LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM
This is the second time we are aware of that a commercial flight has turned back after having laser light from the ground interfere with the crew. On February 14 2016, a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to New York was illuminated by green laser light 6 miles west of London while flying at 8,000 feet. That flight continued for a while but then turned back over Ireland due to the first officer having vision problems. A story with links is here.
We have also reported on a few other times that aircraft have changed course, or the many times that police or other public service flights have had a mission interrupted, because of laser interference.
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 in a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia (below, in blue type).
UPDATE August 26, 2021: Roger Floyd Hendricks pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by three years of probation. Details are in a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Souther District of Georgia (below, in red type).
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 illumination 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
Alan Whiteside referred to incidents which occurred over an eight-day period: “Five recent incidents in the Glengormley, Cloughfern, Newtownabbey, Jordanstown and North Shore areas are five too many."
He said "These actions are irresponsible and potentially life threatening. Aircraft crew are responsible for the lives of every passenger on board and any disruption to cockpit operations is simply unacceptable. Those who point laser pens at aircraft need to be apprehended and processed through the courts."
From the Belfast International Airport blog and the Belfast Telegraph
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police searched for, but did not find, a suspect.
From Global News
On March 9 2019 the helicopter was searching for a car that had eluded a police stop, when it was repeatedly illuminated by green laser light. The search was abandoned so the helicopter could locate the laser suspect.
Ground units arrested David Gill of Leeds.
At trial he pleaded not guilty, but was convicted of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
From the Daily Mail
In addition to the aircraft illumination, Eugene L. Robinson also aimed green laser light at police helicopters during the same night. He was indicted on four counts of interfering with the operation of an aircraft, and pleaded guilty to the Southwest illumination.
Robinson had purchased the laser for $20 and aimed it at the aircraft to see how far it would go. He called it "a boneheaded mistake … I wasn't trying to hurt anybody."
In addition to the jail time and probation, Robinson is required to make a public service announcement telling viewers not to aim laser pointers at aircraft.
From the Columbus Dispatch
HOUSTON – A 20-year-old Houston man has entered a guilty plea to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Bryan Aldana, 20, admitted that on June 23 2018, he pointed a green laser light at an Airbus AS350 B2 helicopter while it was in the air.
On June 23 2018, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) agents were flying the helicopter on routine law enforcement patrol. At approximately 9:00 p.m., they were headed in the northwest direction along highway US-290 when agents observed a flash of green light coming from the left side of the aircraft. At the time, they were at approximately 1000 feet elevation and traveling at a speed of 70-80 knots.
The pilot reversed the aircraft back to the southeast direction and was illuminated again by the green laser, which was powerful enough to light up the entire cockpit. The light caused a glare in the pilot’s eyes and obstructed his vision, forcing him to turn his head and maneuver the Airbus away from it. The pilot also had to close and shield his eyes from the flashing green laser inside the cockpit.
The investigation led to the source of the light at a business near the intersection of Hollister and Pitner Roads in Houston. With the help of the Houston Police Department (HPD) and the store’s security cameras, Aldana was soon identified.
Video recordings show Aldana aiming a green laser up in the sky several times and a green laser pointer at the helicopter while sitting in a chair next to a silver sedan. He was also seen placing the green laser device through the opening of the silver sedan window on to the backseat.
Officers seized the laser and submitted it to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist to be examined. The scientist concluded the laser pointer is a Class IIIB laser system and produced a “laser beam” which could result in serious and possibly permanent retinal damage.
U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes accepted the plea and set sentencing for July 22 2019. At that time, Aldana faces up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The FBI, HPD and DPS conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Porto is prosecuting the case.
UPDATED July 23 2019: On July 22 2019, Brian Aldana was sentenced to 48 months in prison, and will have an additional three years of supervised release after he is released from prison. From mySA.com and CBS Dallas-Fort Worth.
There were two attacks on April 10 2019, two on April 15, one on April 15 and one on April 17.
The Toowoomba LifeFlight Rescue helicopter was flying over the Toowoomba suburb of Glenvale, when the laser light hit the aircraft. There was no indication of any eye effect or injury to the pilots, and no indication of the flight changing or being interrupted.
After the first four events, police put out a “strong media campaign” about the dangers of aiming laser pointers at aircraft. They also asked the public to report any information they might have.
Interfering with crew or aircraft carries a penalty of up to two years in prison, under the Civil Aviation Act.
From Triple M
On March 9 2015, a New York Police Department helicopter was searching for the source of a laser beam that had been aimed at airplanes flying in and out of LaGuardia. They saw a beam coming from Frank Egan's apartment, located about 10 miles from the airport. Ground units found a "Laser 303" inside. Police said Egan admitted it was his laser and he had used it that evening — but also said he had not aimed it at aircraft. He said he had been asleep in the apartment.
On March 13 2015 during a court hearing Egan, his roommate and future brother-in-law revealed on the stand that he was the one who aimed the laser at aircraft. Elehecer Balaguer, 54 said "Frank didn't have nothing to do with it. I was the one that did it. I didn't mean to cause any harm." Balaguer also said the laser was his; that he had purchased in while on vacation in Florida. According to Egan’s lawyer, Egan never told the police he used the laser, contrary to the police statement after Egan’s arrest.
On May 5 2015 Balaguer pleaded guilty to aiming a laser at an airplane in return for prosecutors recommending a minimum sentence of two years in prison (he could have been sentenced up to five years). The judge, however, noted Balaguer's "psychiatric history and … his apparent lack of wrongful intent."
In September 2015 Balaguer was sentenced to time served, after receiving a diagnosis of terminal liver cancer. He has since died.
In his lawsuit against New York City, Egan said that police falsely claimed that Egan had admitted owning the laser pointer. Egan said his picture was widely spread in the media, his reputation had suffered, and his wedding and honeymoon were disrupted by the arrest.
A Law Department spokesman said "…it was in the city's best interest to settle this case."
From the New York Daily News. Previous LaserPointerSafety coverage of the arrest and the case can be found here.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport said they do not comment on laser incidents because they are concerned it can lead to copycat incidents.
According to the Irish Examiner, "In 2014 the State Airports (Shannon Group) Act made it illegal to aim laser pens at aircraft. As of August 26 2016, there were 31 reports of lasers deliberately pointed at aircraft in Irish airspace. Since the legislation was introduced, there has been a significant decrease in the number of laser incidents reported by Irish pilots in Irish airspace to Irish Air Traffic Control."
From the Irish Examiner
Ground officers were sent to the laser location, which was the home of Rodger Dean Smith, 47. He denied aiming the laser at the helicopter. Officers found a laser pointer in the home.
Officers outside the home of Rodger Dean Smith, from the Sheriff's Office helicopter infrared camera
Officers also found 12 firearms. As a convicted felon, Smith is prohibited from having firearms.
He was charged with 12 counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, assault on a law enforcement officer, and pointing a laser at a driver or pilot.
After bonding out of jail, Smith said he did not aim at the aircraft: "They were wrong. I'll have my day in court. I did not point no laser, they do not know what they're talking about."
From the Orlando Sentinel and Spectrum News 13
After the man was located, his weapon was found to be an air rifle. It is not known if the laser was attached to the rifle, or was a separate device. He was spoken to by officers and "enquiries are ongoing."
The missing person was later located on Yaverland Beach.
From UK News In Pictures, Island Echo, and Isle of Wight County Press
He was charged with an act that threatened the safety of an aircraft or persons on board, and with possession or use of a prohibited weapon without a permit.
From Mirage News and The Australian
Justin Shorey, 37, was arrested and charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
According to Fox News, in San Antonio there were 48 reports of lasers pointed at aircraft in 2016, 62 reports in 2017, and 74 reports from January through November 2018.
From Fox San Antonio. Thanks to Peter Smith and Leon McLin for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 9 2020: Justin Shorey was sentenced to 51 months — over four years — in federal prison. After his term is complete, he will be placed on supervised release for an additional three years. From MySA.com. Details on his arrest, charges and sentencing are in the press release below from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas.
Schertz Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Pointing Laser at San Antonio Police Helicopter
In San Antonio today, a federal judge sentenced 39-year-old Justin John Shorey of Schertz, TX, to 51 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a San Antonio Police Department helicopter, announced U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer, FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division, and San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra ordered that Shorey be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.Click to read more...
US: Did not think laser could reach, says Washington state man arrested for aiming at sheriff's helicopter
McElfish, whose age was reported as 41 or 42, told deputies he had deliberately aimed at the helicopter, thinking the beam would not reach the aircraft.
He was arrested and charged with first degree unlawful discharge of a laser, which is a felony.
On September 15 2018 officers were flying above Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, searching for men carrying knives, when their helicopter was illuminated with "dazzling" green light three times; each time lasting 3-5 seconds. The pilot took immediate action to avoid the light.
Ground officers arrested Dimitrov under the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act. He could have been jailed for up to five years and have been given an unlimited fine.
At trial on January 29 2019, Dimitrov pleaded guilty. His lawyer said Dimitrov thought he was aiming the laser at a drone which was an "extremely ridiculous" decision but that he was of good character.
During sentencing on February 18 2019, the judge said the outcome could have been "fatal and catastrophic" and gave Dimitrov a six-month jail sentence as a deterrent.
From BBC England News
On February 17 2019, the helicopter was monitoring a fire at about 2:30 am when a red beam was shined at the aircraft three times. An infrared camera captured a suspect aiming towards the helicopter from the door of a screened-in porch.
Deputies on the ground went to a house in unincorporated Clearwater and arrested Brian Harting, who admitted aiming a laser at the aircraft.
Harting also said he was unaware that doing so was illegal. The laser had a label stating "Never aim at aircraft."
From the Miami Herald and WFLA
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: As far as we are aware, this is the first case where a person was apprehended with a laser that had a label warning against aiming at aircraft. Such a warning is not required in the U.S., as the Food and Drug Administration only requires labels that warn against injury to eyes or skin, or a potential burn hazard. FDA does recommend that laser pointer manufacturers add a a warning against aiming at aircraft, but this is not legally required.
Such a label has two advantages: 1) It can warn persons who read the label, and 2) it is easier to prosecute a person in court if they were specifically warned on the laser not to aim at aircraft, but they did so anyway. More discussion is on the page "What should be done about laser pointers?" in the two sections with labeling recommendations.
Ground officers arrested 42-year-old Sherryol Elton Clack, Jr. with a green laser pointer.
Two weeks later, FBI agents interviewed Clack. He said his friend had purchased the laser pointer and claimed the light could reach the moon. Clack then decided to aim it at a helicopter. He said this was done out of "stupidity" and he did not intend to harm anyone.
Sherryol Elton Clack, Jr.
On February 15 2019 Clack took a plea deal for the offense of Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft. Details of the deal were not available. If the judge approves the plea deal, Clack will be sentenced later to a term of up to five years in prison.
The 32-year-old will be charged with possessing and using a prohibited weapon, reckless conduct endangering life, and interfering with crew of an aircraft.
From Bay 93.9 News
According to the doctor, the beam illuminated the side of the twin-propeller aircraft and did not shine onto the pilot. The aircraft continued without further incident on its medical transfer flight.
From The Examiner
In a January 29 2019 appeal, police said they are asking for witnesses of past laser events, as well as to notify police if they become aware of a current laser aimed at aircraft so officers can respond.
The six past incidents of concern are:
- At 7.30pm on 24 October 2018 when two military Apaches flying together near Enborne were targeted.
- At 6.45pm on 30 November 2018 a pilot reported a green laser being shone approximately five miles west of Newbury.
- At 5.45pm on 12 December 2018 a laser was shone at a military Apache helicopter traveling over Marsh Benham
- At 5.35pm on 12 December 2018 a laser strike took place against a plane in the Welford area
- At 5.45pm on 8 January 2019 a report was received that a laser was shone at aircraft flying over Newbury
- At 5.50pm on 9 January 2019 at a civilian helicopter in the vicinity of Newbury Racecourse
A police spokesperson said "We are keeping an open mind as to whether any of the incidents are linked."
From the Thames Valley Police
On March 20 2018 a police helicopter was illuminated by a purple laser beam for about one minute. The pilot had eye irritation and put on night vision goggles. Silva, 33, was located on Fiesta Island and was arrested.
At trial, Silva told the jury he thought he was aiming at a drone piloted by a friend, and stopped when he realized he was instead aiming at a helicopter.
Prosecutors pointed out the difference between the helicopter and a drone, saying "He knew what he was doing. It was intentional. He didn't think he'd get found."
Silva's attorney noted that the helicopter was four miles away and thus looked smaller. She said "malicious intent" was required to convict, and that Silva did not have any intent to harm. She said "he profusely and repeatedly apologized" to police during his arrest, and that police did not go to look for the drone operator.
The jury deadlocked after four hours of deliberation on January 16 2019. Nine jurors voted to acquit and the remaining three jurors voted to convict.
The judge declared a mistrial and ordered Silva to return in late January to schedule dates for a possible re-trial. Silva remains free on $25,000 bond.
A 30-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of recklessly endangering an aircraft, and the laser was recovered by Welwyn Hatfield South Police.
The subject of the search was eventually found in woodlands.
From the Welwyn Hatfield Times and BOB FM.
The aviation authority did not give any absolute numbers of laser incidents, though the statement implied there were multiple illuminations on October 28.
Persons caught aiming lasers at aircraft can be prosecuted under the Solomon Island Civil Aviation Act 2008, section 213. They can be imprisoned for up to 14 years and fined up to SI$300,000 (about USD $37,000).
News of the CAASI warning comes almost exactly one year after an almost identical announcement from CAASI.
On July 18, "numerous" Columbus Police Department helicopters were repeatedly illuminated by a green laser beam. (It is not clear if this happened before, during or after the illumination of the Southwest flight.)
Ground units located Eugene Lamont Robinson, 36, and confiscated a six-inch "Laser 303" device. He was found at a location about 10 miles from the airport.
A "Laser 303" is a generic type of handheld laser, usually well over the 5 mW U.S. limit for laser pointers. It uses one 18650 battery and costs as little as USD $10.
Robinson was indicted on four counts of Interfering with the Operation of an Aircraft with a Laser. This is a second degree felony; he could receive up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
Robinson will be arraigned on September 12 2018.
UPDATED May 2 2019: Robinson was sentenced on May 1 2019 to county jail for 30 days, and given one year probation. In addition to the jail time and probation, Robinson is required to make a public service announcement telling viewers not to aim laser pointers at aircraft.
A spokesperson for U.S. Central Command told the paper that while the source is “exceedingly difficult to pinpoint … many likely come from insurgents and terrorist organizations.”
U.S. crews had no permanent injuries although minor effects such as short-term vision impairment and headaches were reported.
The Journal article did not indicate whether the laser illuminations were being coordinated, or if the perpetrators were using lasers of a different type or power than those commonly involved in illuminations of civilian aircraft outside of conflict zones.
Lasing rate comparison
For comparison with civil aviation, during the same January-July 2018 period American civilian pilots reported 3,182 laser illuminations to the Federal Aviation Administration. In Canada there were roughly 190 laser illuminations reported to Transport Canada, and in the U.K. there were roughly 500 laser illuminations reported to the Civil Aviation Authority.
The Middle East incidents appear to indicate a higher rate of lasing than two recent areas of concern recently disclosed by U.S. military:
- In May 2018, a Pentagon spokesperson reported “between 2 and ten” lasers aimed at U.S. aircraft operating out of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.
- From September 2017 to mid-June 2018, about two dozen aircraft in the East China Sea were illuminated by “smaller, commercial grade” laser pointers similar to those sold for pointing and playing with pets.
Laser incidents in the Middle East had been at about 700 in 2015, about 600 in 2016, and were at about 400 in 2017. At the current rate of about 50 per month in the first seven months of 2018, there would be about 600 incidents estimated for all of 2018.
From a Wall Street Journal article by reporter Gordon Lubold; the article is behind a paywall. A non-paywall (free) summary is at The Hill.
Click to read more...
One incident occurred at Te Kauwhata at 7:40 pm. The second occurred 43 miles away (straight line; 52 miles by highway) at 8:30 pm, near Te Awamutu. Normally this journey takes about 70 minutes by car via State Highways 1 and 39. So it would appear difficult for a car at one location to make it to the other within 50 minutes.
Police said the pilots “weren’t injured but [were] quite shaken.” One of the attacks lasted 26 seconds.
In addition, there have been other recent incidents where lasers were aimed at planes in Morrinsville, Cambridge and Hamilton.
Police will investigate these laser incidents.
Since March 1 2014, New Zealand has import controls on lasers over 1 milliwatt, and sales are restricted to “authorized recipients” who must apply to the Director-General of Health. However, it does not appear to be illegal in New Zealand to possess high-powered lasers obtained prior to March 1 2014 or which are home-built.
From Stuff. Information on New Zealand laws from LaserPointerSafety.com’s “International (non-U.S.) laws” page.
The laser pointer was confiscated and the unnamed man was charged with “causing fear or alarm to the driver or pilot of a conveyance or others.” He will appear in court later in July 2018.
US: UPDATED - Florida woman arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter. Knew it was wrong; charges later dropped.
Jacqueline Robledo, 33, of Lake Worth, was arrested. She told officers she was aware that the laser light could cause blindness. She was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device and was held on $3,000 bond.
From the Palm Beach Post, Tampa Bay Times and NBC-2.com
UPDATED August 12 2018 - Charges against Jacqueline Robledo were dropped on August 9 2018. There was no reason given. Robledo did not have any previous criminal history. From myPalmBeachPost.com
Ruth Ann Hopp was ordered into temporary custody on June 25, pending a detention hearing. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
From the Brownsville Herald
U.S. officials said the low-level, harassing beams came from fishing vessels and from shore.
U.S. and Chinese military interests have had disputes in the East China Sea in recent years. However, there was no specific indication of whether there was malicious intent, or any organized effort behind the laser incidents. The officials speculated that the lasers could be directed by the Chinese government, or could be “disgruntled Chinese fishermen… who simply want to harass American pilots.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said that flying procedures have not changed due to the laser incidents. She did say pilots are “employing” required laser eye protection.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry called claims that China was responsible for the East China Sea lasers “groundless and sheer fabrications.”
According to news.com.au, “All aspects of the Chinese economy are state-controlled. And its fishing fleets are operated as a militia, working in close concert with Beijing’s navy as it seeks to assert its arbitrary claim to total control of the South and East China Seas…. The waterway is, however, part of a busy sea lane carrying enormous quantities of international trade.”
Disclosure of the East China Sea incidents came about seven weeks after the United States publicly accused China of deliberately aiming lasers between two and ten times at military aircraft in Djibouti, in East Africa. In those incidents, the Pentagon said “military-grade” lasers were used. Two U.S. Air Force pilots received minor, unspecified injuries with no long-term effects.
From the Wall Street Journal, news.com.au and Stars and Stripes
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: About 24 laser/aircraft incidents over nine months from boats or the shore of the East China Sea seems like a plausible number for random, unconnected civilian misuse of commonly available laser pointers.
Consider that the East China Sea has an area of about 500,000,000 square miles. This is roughly equivalent to the combined area of Texas, California and Florida. (Of course the Sea is far less populated even considering seacoast populations.)
In the U.S. in 2017, there were roughly 5,600 reported incidents over nine months, so 24 incidents in the same period is a reasonable number for a less-populated area. Another indication that these may be from civilian misuse is that U.S. officials indicated the East China Sea incidents occurred from “smaller, commercial-grade” lasers which includes readily available low-powered consumer laser pointers.
However, if Chinese fishing fleets are a “militia” as claimed by one news source, then there may be some coordination or central control for the laser attacks.
For a contrary view, see the June 25 2018 column “China is Trying to Bring Down American Planes With Lasers. Time to Get Tough” in the Daily Beast. Author Gordon Chang considers but rejects the unorganized attack hypothesis. He says “it is difficult to believe that Chinese fishermen can pick out American military aircraft from civilian ones without radar or other help. Moreover, state support is the best explanation for the increasing sophistication of the laserings.”
Chang argues that “Washington should consider the attacks, almost certainly directed by Beijing, as attempts to injure pilots and their crews. The American response, therefore, should be immediate in timing and devastating in effect….”
On June 19 2018 at about 12:30 am, a green laser beam was aimed at the cockpit from an apartment building balcony. The crew could identify the apartment complex the beam came from, but not a specific unit.
At about 1 am, the helicopter cockpit was again illuminated by a laser beam. This time the crew could see from which unit the beam came. Ground officers then went to the apartment, where they handcuffed and arrested the 15-year-old males.
The teens are led down the apartment staircase to a waiting police car. They were later released to their parents.
A police department spokesperson called the incident “super dangerous” and very serious. There were no injuries reported to the helicopter crew.
From MyNewsLA.com, the Orange County Register and ABC7.com
The California Highway Patrol received a number of calls from motorists who saw or were illuminated by the laser light.
James Gilbert Trujillo, 33, was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft in the June 6 incident. He will appear in court June 11.
From the Victorville Daily Press and San Bernardino Sun. This news item was also filed under the Non-aviation incident news section.
The second offense occurred October 5 2017 during a World Cup qualifier game between Northern Ireland and Germany. The helicopter was monitoring the crowd at Windsor Park football ground when it was illuminated two times by laser light. The pilot could not fly by sight; he had to use instruments. The helicopter identified the laser as coming from a nearby home. Ground officers arrested Barkley while the helicopter retreated to the safety of Belfast City Airport.
At trial, it was noted that Barkley had a low IQ and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He was smoking marijuana in his bedroom at the time of the arrest.
The judge said a jail sentence “would not help society or prevent further offending.”
During his two-year probation, Barkley would receive help with his drug problems. The judge did note that if Barkley violated probation he “will go straight to prison.”
In 2015, Barkley’s laser conviction was dealt with by a youth diversion conference because of his age at the time.
From BBC News, Belfast Telegraph and Newsletter.co.uk
The pilot was temporarily disoriented. He put on night vision goggles to prevent laser light from directly entering his eyes. He was able to direct officers on the ground to the woman, who was inside a car with a “long black cylinder-shaped laser pointer in her hand.”
Federal charges were filed against the 31-year-old woman.
According to KSHB, “Kansas City Police said the pilot flying the KCPD helicopter last month [May 2018] had a temporary deficiency in his vision and is currently recovering. The pilot is expected to return and fly again.”
The FBI said there were 110 cases of pilots reporting laser illuminations in Kansas City during 2017.
In January 2017, Jordan Clarence Rogers was sentenced to three years in federal prison for an October 2013 incident where he aimed a laser at a Kansas City police helicopter multiple times, resulting in several hours of eye strain for the pilot.
From June 1 2018 reports in the Kansas City Star, KSHB.com and Fox4KC.com
The pilot directed police on the ground to the home of Darren Kenyon, 48. He told them he had been “playing” with the laser by pointing it out his bathroom window. The laser had been purchased by one of his six children while on holiday.
In Manchester magistrates court, Kenyon pleaded guilty to reckless behavior likely to endanger an aircraft. He will be sentenced at crown court.
From The Sun
The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority said there has been eight reports of lasers illuminating Northland Emergency Services Trust helicopters in the timespan 2016-2018.
The Possession of High-Power Laser Pointers Amendment Act 2014 makes it illegal for anyone to have a high-power laser pointer in a public place. Offenders face a maximum three months in prison or a $2000 fine.
Under the Crimes Act, people found guilty of "endangering transport" can face up to 14 years' imprisonment.
From the New Zealand Herald Northern Advocate
In all of 2016, there were 73 laser incidents at Birmingham Airport, so six incidents over two evenings is especially alarming to the local police and the British Airline Pilots’ Association. Birmingham Airport police tweeted “Laser strikes directed at aircraft are extremely dangerous! They can distract or blind a pilot. It is also an offence under Article 137 Air Navigation Order 2009, endangering an aircraft.”
If the perpetrators can be found, they will face “a hefty jail sentence.”
From BBC News and Birmingham Mail
The NPAS crew contacted police in Preston, Lancashire who located and “detained the offender.” It is not known how much the persistent laser light disrupted the search for the woman. She was later found by a member of the public after a social media alert was posted.
From the Lancashire Post
A substance appearing to be oil coated the Cessna 172’s windscreen. The unnamed student said “I literally can’t see a thing” to flight controllers who safely talked him down. The incident lasted about 7 1/2 minutes.
Air traffic controller Tim Martin, who helped the student, said “That’s probably like a worst-case scenario for that pilot to land that plane with zero visibility.”
A spokesperson at at the student’s school, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, said “the student-pilot did exactly what he had been trained to do.”
From the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Although this incident does not involve a laser, it does involve a pilot with no forward vision undertaking a landing, and thus may be relevant to pilots who are temporarily blinded by a dazzling laser beam exposure.
According to China Daily, “The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the ministry has dismissed such ungrounded accusations from some US officials via official channels. It added that China always firmly honors international laws and regulations in Djibouti, and is dedicated to safeguarding regional security and peace.”
Separately, Reuters reported that “Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the government had conducted ‘serious checks’ and told the U.S. side the accusations were groundless. ‘You can remind the relevant U.S. person to keep in mind the truthfulness of what they say, and to not swiftly speculate or make accusations,’ she told a daily briefing in Beijing.”
From China Daily and Reuters
US & Djibouti: UPDATED - Pentagon says Chinese have aimed lasers at US planes in Djibouti, causing two injuries
Spokesperson Dana White said the reason for the laser activity is unknown, “but it’s serious, we take it seriously.” She said it was “a true threat to our airmen”. The U.S. has protested and has asked the Chinese government to investigate.
Another Pentagon spokesperson, Major Sheryll Klinke, said the C-130 pilots were hit with a “military grade” laser.
On April 14 2018, the US military posted this notice to airmen (NOTAM) on the Federal Aviation Administration website, warning about “unauthorized laser activity” in Djibouti.
The NOTAM was scheduled to expire on June 14.
The NOTAM coordinates (N1135.70 E04303.14) are about 2,400 feet from China’s military base in Djibouti, opened August 1 2017 near Camp Lemonnier.
An article in the quasi-official South China Morning Post referred to “Chinese military observers [who] said the lasers might have been used to scare off birds near the airfield or disrupt possible spy drones, rather than targeting foreign pilots. A Beijing-based military analyst said China has already demonstrated laser weapons being used against drones, at airshows.
China is a signatory to the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, which bans the use of lasers that cause permanent blindness. The protocol does not ban laser dazzlers, which temporarily impair vision but do not cause eye damage. It is also permitted under the Protocol to use lasers to disrupt or damage cameras and sensors such as those on missiles or satellites.
According to The Drive, “As of 2015, Chinese forces had access to at least four different man-portable systems, the BBQ-905, PY131A, PY132A, and the WJG-2002, all of which look like oversized assault rifles or shoulder-fired grenade launchers.”
From The Drive, Janes 360, C4ISRNET, Defense News, South China Morning Post, FAA PilotWeb, and a YouTube video of the May 3 2018 Pentagon press briefing by Dana White. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATED May 4 2018: China’s Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry both denied the U.S. allegations of laser use by China.
UPDATED May 7 2019: An annual report to Congress on Chinese military and security developments does not mention the April 2018 Djibouti laser incidents. It does mention "a few provocative Chinese military actions" but not the alleged Chinese lasers in Djibouti. A news story says the omission is "an apparent bid to preserve the controversial military exchange program with Beijing." From the Washington Free Beacon
The unnamed man was a passenger in a car when he aimed at the helicopter. The aircrew radioed to a ground unit that stopped the car. The man told the officer that a misdemeanor warrant had been issued for his arrest.
He was charged on the warrant and for violating his probation. Apparently, he was not charged for the laser offense.
From the Omaha World-Herald
The incident happened during the week of April 8-14. There have been two previous incidents, also involving Hawaiian Airline planes.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it is illegal to aim laser beams at aircraft or their flight path. Penalties are up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
The first incident in American Samoa when an aircraft reported a laser beam happened in March 2011.
From Radio New Zealand
He and two other members of the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew landed safely after being hit by a laser several times at about 9 p.m. March 21 2018.
The aircrew conducted visual acuity tests with the duty corpsman. After consultation with the flight surgeon, two of the three aircrew members were medically grounded until they received further examination by an optometrist.
One of the crew members was found to have suffered eye damage and was grounded for seven days. The crew member will be reevaluated this week. The other crew member was grounded for two hours but has since returned to duty.
Because members of the crew were medically grounded, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Sector Columbia River in Warrenton, Ore., became responsible for covering the Port Angeles station’s area of responsibility until Port Angeles aircrews were medically cleared.
From the Peninsula Daily News and a U.S. Coast Guard press release
US: Man shines laser near Sea-Tac Airport and at police helicopter: "Didn't think it was a big deal"
On March 13 2018, the Sea-Tac control tower notified the helicopter, Guardian 1, that a laser was being aimed at inbound aircraft. The approximate location was the Burien Transit Center bus station. The helicopter was able to locate a man, who pointed a green laser beam at the aircraft. Officers on the ground arrested the man, who was not named in press reports.
According to the arresting officers, the man said he was showing his friend a new laser, and the man was “accidentally” aiming near the airport. The man also said he deliberately aimed the laser at the helicopter but “didn’t think it was a big deal.”
The laser caused a brief interruption of SeaTac Airport flight duties and prevented pilots from looking outside the aircraft.
From the Sky Valley Chronicle, KIRO, and Q13FOX.
On August 15, 2017, the Lehigh Valley Health Network MedEvac 7 was preparing to land when it was illuminated by a green laser beam. There was no injury to the crew. Timothy M. Ebert was arrested and charged with risking a catastrophe, possessing an instrument of crime, and three counts of recklessly endangering another person.
Timothy M. Ebert
Ebert pleaded guilty to the laser-related charges, plus charges in five other cases including driving under the influence, fleeing or eluding police, driving under suspension, driving an unregistered vehicle, driving the wrong way, possession of a prohibited offensive weapon, possession of a small amount of marijuana, two counts each of delivery of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, and three counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.
In addition to serving prison time, Ebert must pay costs, $1300 in fines, $500 to the Substance Abuse Education Fund, perform 10 hours of community service and submit a DNA sample to authorities.
From the Republican Herald
The sideshow took place at about 2 a.m. in Oakland, with about 200 cars present. Fireworks were shot into the air and there were reports of gunfire.
View from the helicopter’s infrared camera, showing cars doing doughnuts, and spectators
A green laser beam was aimed at a CHP helicopter several times. The crew was able to direct ground officers to a white sedan, where the 23-year-old was arrested and faces “several state and federal felony charges.”
From KVTU.com. See also this story about lasers being aimed into the crowd at a December 2017 Oakland sideshow.
In 2016, there were problems with “clubs and party hubs.” The Airports Authority of India asked the to replace lasers with LEDs, and most complied.
The new problem seems to be private parties, which “are more difficult to track and act against.”
The chairman of the Airline Operator’s Committee said "We don't want to spoil the fun for anyone. The only message that needs to go out is that one shouldn't endanger the lives of others for a bit of fun. I am sure once there is awareness about threat to flights, there will be compliance.”
From a December 27 2017 article in the Times of India. See also a story about similar problems in Mumbai.
Separately in Oakland, a green laser was aimed at a California Highway Patrol helicopter flying over a car “sideshow” on December 17 2017 (story here).
Video from the CHP helicopter shows a suspect repeatedly and deliberately aiming the laser
The illuminations occurred as they flew over Ashdown Forest, open heathland 30 miles south of London. Police said “We believe the person or persons responsible were located in the Hartfield area.” They asked for anyone with information to call them.
From Crawley News 24
The helicopter crew directed ground officers to a home in Bradenton, where the teen was arrested. According to a sheriff’s office spokesperson, the boy was not able to explain why he pointed the laser at the helicopter.
The unnamed youth was taken to the Juvenile Booking Facility.
From the Bradenton Herald
On October 22 2017, Roger Shane John struck a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department helicopter five to six times with a green laser, causing visual interference and disrupting an air support response to a domestic violence call.
At around the same time, John also aimed a laser 3-4 times at CalStar 12, an emergency medical helicopter.
Conviction would result in jail time of up to five years, and a fine of up to $250,000.
John had numerous prior run-ins with law enforcement, including convictions for domestic violence, identity theft, possession of a controlled substance for sale, being a felon in possession of a firearm and making threats with intent to terrorize.
Roger Shane John
Stephen Ruth said he was not home at the time, that no one aimed a laser beam from his property, and that police are targeting him. “I find it very suspicious the commissioner would accuse me when the same day I attempted to form an anti-corruption taskforce in the county.”
Police said they “have no doubt the laser came from that home” in the December 6 2017 incident. The helicopter had been looking for a missing teenager.
Ruth had previously mis-aimed red light cameras, and cut wiring in about 20-30 systems, to protest what he called an unsafe money grab by Suffolk County. He said only a jury could give him a fair hearing.
From CBS New York, laser story and earlier story on red light damage.
Pilot Stephen Bowman was assisting with a situation involving a barricaded suspect, when he was hit by the laser at around 10:50 pm. Bowman told Bay News 9, “It blinded us temporarily for a couple of seconds — extremely painful. Once we came to, we saw a couple more flashes from the laser." Examination of video from the helicopter showed about 10 flashes.
Bowman began tracking the suspect. After landing the helicopter and going to the suspect’s home, there he detained Ryan Fluke, 27.
Bowman said Fluke was “a little confused”, asking where the helicopter was. Fluke also told Bowman he was doing it for fun. Fluke did not realize that lasers could travel a long distance (the helicopter was about 800 feet in the air). Fluke apologized to Bowman.
Fluke was charged with a third-degree felony, misuse of laser lighting devices. He had 12 previous arrests in Pasco County.
From the Bradenton Herald and ABC News, whose story includes police video of what the laser looked like from the air.
UPDATED MARCH 28 2019: Fluke pleaded guilty November 20 2018 to aiming a laser at an aircraft and was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, in March 2019. From ABC Action News, the Global Dispatch and a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida.
The Airbus A319 had 113 passengers onboard when the incident occurred in November 2017. The captain was able to safely land the aircraft.
The report said that several other aircraft also reported laser light at the same point in their approach, for two nights in a row. The light was reported to be coming from persons in a park.
From mid-November to December 6 2017, there were 23 laser illuminations of commercial aircraft in the Toronto area. Nationwide, there were 381 laser strikes as of the first week of December 2017, down from the approximately 600 incidents reported in 2015 and 2016.
From The Star
The first reported Christmas-related incident of 2017 came on November 20. As of this writing, December 2 is the last date for which incident information is available.
There are 13 days from November 20 through December 2. With 13 potential Christmas-related incidents, that is a rate of one Christmas incident per day.
In the previous 323 days of 2017, from January 1 through November 19, there were 5,734 incidents or 17.8 per day.
So Christmas lights appear to be adding one extra incident per day (a 5.6% increase), early in the holiday season.
This story will be updated as additional December incident data becomes available.
Based on FAA incident reporting. See our page on Christmas holiday laser projectors for more information, plus these pages about holiday lighting reports here and here.
On August 19 2017, the helicopter was flying over power lines when the cockpit lit up briefly with laser light. The helicopter spotter had to close his eyes. The pilot then aimed the aircraft’s searchlight down at the source of the laser beam, a person in a Jeep Patriot. The laser continued to be aimed at the helicopter.
Chula Vista police stopped the SUV. 27-year-old Michael Angelo Ramirez, a passenger, told them he shined the laser at what he thought was a drone, and the drone aimed a light back. He said he turned off the laser once he realized he had hit a helicopter.
However, the driver of the Jeep told police that it was clear the aircraft was a helicopter and not a drone.
Ramirez was taken into custody and later was released. After his arraignment on November 30 2017 he was taken back into custody. Ramirez faces up to five years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine.
From the Times of San Diego
UPDATED December 28 2017 - Ramirez pleaded guilty to one charge of aiming at an aircraft, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Timothy Wade Demery pleaded guilty in September to the federal charge. He could have received up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. By a plea agreement, the maximum would have been reduced to up to six months in prison.
Demery’s public defender asked the judge to only sentence Demery to probation. The lawyer said of Demery, “He is sorry that he pointed the laser at the airplanes going over his house, but he didn’t think it would cause harm. He knows now that it could have been a problem, and that it is a federal offense. He will never do it again.”
At the November sentencing hearing, Demery apologized to the judge, who said “I’d hate to think some yahoo like you is pointing a laser at my plane.”
The judge decided on two years probation and a $2,000 fine. Demery is also prohibited from possessing a laser pointer; apparently during the term of his probationary period.
From the Arizona Daily Star
The aircraft was searching for a missing child at the time. The pilot and tactical flight officer were illuminated five times by the laser. It affected their ability to see and to give updated locations of the child, whom they had spotted shortly before the laser strikes.
Eric D. Harper was arrested at his home. Harper admitted to aiming at the aircraft. He told the arresting officers that he was sorry and he was unaware aiming a laser at an aircraft was illegal.
Eric D. Harper
From the Tampa Bay Times and ABC Action News
Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Both stories quoted the sheriff’s office as saying that viewing a laser from infrared equipment such as FLIR cameras can severely damage the human eye.” This is not true. The laser may cause the FLIR viewing screen to “bloom” to full white or full green, which is very bright and of course can interfere with vision. The laser might even damage the FLIR sensor. But the FLIR sensor stops the laser beam itself — no laser light can enter the eye, and thus no eye damage could occur.
The incident occurred October 10 2017. The pilot was dazzled and had to abandon his mission. Wright was found at his home on Croyland Green, Thurnby Lodge, Leicester. He admitted to aiming the laser at the aircraft while “larking around.”
Sentencing occurred around November 24 2017.
Wright’s defender said Wright’s actions were “thoughtless stupidity,” that he “didn’t realize his behavior was a criminal offence,” and that he was “genuinely remorseful.”
The judge told Wright “The seriousness of this offence is blindingly obvious. You could have caused the death of those people performing a public duty and, as it was over a residential area, there could have been further fatalities."
Neil Stephen Wright
At about 9:40 pm on October 29 2017, and at 2:30 am the next morning, the pilots of a United Airlines plane reported green laser light being aimed at them.
The laser was traced to Rawit, who had been fishing in waters off Ruo in Chuuk State. Police said the laser was similar to “military grade” laser pointers; it was six inches long with a flashlight mode and red and green lasers.
Rawit admitted that each time he saw the plane overhead, he aimed his laser pointer at the aircraft.
In FSM, it is not illegal to own that type of laser pointer, but it is illegal to point it at an aircraft.
Rawit could be jailed for up to five years, and could be fined up to $10,000.
From Marianas Variety
In 2015 there were 24 laser reports in the entire year, and 15 reports during 2016.
In addition to the laser hazards, pilots also reported three drones and two sky lanterns during the first nine months of 2017.
Pilots report cases of laser attacks and lanterns to the Air Traffic Control (ATC), which conveys the information to the airport operator, who reports the incident to the local police. However, policemen said there is no specific law or government notification to deal with such cases.
A police official on condition of anonymity said, “In such complaints, we first find out the reason the light was flashed. If the laser light was coming from a wedding ceremony or any other function, then as a preventive action, we alert concerned people and sensitise them about its dangerous effects on aircraft. However, nothing can be done legally as there is no law under which we can produce anyone in court.”
From the Hindustan Times and Times of India. About a month later, Kolkata reported similar problems with rooftop parties using lasers under the flight path of aircraft.
According to a local airport manager, Salvador Corona “flies at night more than most pilots, and is very upset about the targeting. He knocked on doors and talked to people after he suspected someone was using a laser in a neighborhood near the airport in Merlin. He said he’s going to buy a pair of protective glasses to wear while flying…”
From the Grants Pass Daily Courier via the Register-Guard
At about 12:45 am on October 22 2017, the helicopter was providing support to ground units responding to a domestic violence disturbance when it was continuously illuminated by a green laser beam. The tactical flight officer was hit three times in the eyes.
The pilot had momentary flashblindness and lost night vision. The tactical flight officer had watering eyes, discomfort and pain. There was no reported eye injury.
The helicopter broke off from its mission to pursue the laser perpetrator.
The beam came from the driver’s side of a car traveling north on Highway 99 in Fresno. Ground officers pursued Alvarez’s car, which began a high-speed chase. Twice during the chase Alvarez stopped to drop off passengers. The car eventually crashed into a median. Alvarez got out and ran towards neighboring homes. He was apprehended by officers in the backyard of a home after a short foot pursuit.
Alvarez had minor injuries from the crash and was taken to a hospital for treatment. At the hospital, a baggie was found with substances suspected to be marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Inside the car’s driver side door pocket police found a laser marked “Laser 303” with a green multi-dot beam (perhaps a diffraction grating making a star-field-like pattern) and a danger label.
After an FBI investigation, Alvarez was charged with violating federal law by knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft or its flight path. In addition, there were two previous felony warrants out for Alvarez’s arrest on other, unspecified charges.
From a report by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica. The criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California is here.
UPDATED May 7 2018 — Michael Vincent Alvarez was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the October 22 2017 incident. From KMPH and the Fresno Bee.
The aircraft was on patrol when the incident occurred. The teen was found hiding in a backyard. He will be subject to the Young Offenders Act.
From the Daily Telegraph and Mirage News
In a statement the Acting Director of Civil Aviation Brian Halisanau said according to the Solomon Islands Civil Aviation Act 2008 Section 213, offender convicted of committing the use of high powered laser pointers against any operating aircraft would be liable to pay a penalty of SI$300,000 (about USD $37,000) or serve a 14-year term imprisonment.
Halisanau said the warning came as pilots recently reported cases of high powered laser green strike incidents on aircraft arriving and departing Honiara International Airport at night.
He said some of these incidents took place immediately after take-off, and probably before the pilots had fully transitioned onto instrument flight or when the aircraft was established on approach to the runway.
Halisanau added that this was dangerous, as direct eye exposure to one of these laser beams could result in momentary “flash blindness'” for the pilots at a critical stage of the aircraft approach or departure.
The first laser strike occurred about 3 a.m. on August 28 2017 as the pilot was flying from Wyoming to Salt Lake City. On the return flight, the pilot was illuminated again, from the same location. He identified a vehicle for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, who dispatched ground units that arrested Ryan Michael Kane.
If convicted, Kane could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
From Gephardt Daily
UPDATED July 12 2018: The perpetrator, identified as “Michael Ray Kane” a 26-year-old carpenter from Coalville (near Salt Lake City), was sentenced July 12 2018 to three years of probation. The sentence came “moments after the pilot described how night-vision goggles intensified the beam, but he did not sustain any permanent damage that would threaten his livelihood.” He was also banned from possessing a laser pointer during the probationary period, and must submit to periodic drug tests.
In March 2018 Kane pleaded guilty in exchange for prosecutors seeking a six month prison term. (He could have served up to five years and been fined up to $250,000.)
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball may have decided on probation after hearing that Kane had come to realize that what he did was dangerous, had cooperated with investigators, had a child, and had stopped using marijuana. Kimball told Kane “I'm satisfied that you're finally growing up, but I'm telling you, do not get in any more trouble.”
Respiratory therapist Justin Misuraca was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of a Flight for Life plane, helping the pilot watch for other air traffic, when a bright green light filled his vision. He closed his eyes and looked away; when he opened his eyes he was blinded for a few seconds.
A few days later he saw an eye specialist. Misuraca said the specialist told him “…there was a burn all the way to the back of my eye, and I’m missing 30 percent of my vision in an upside-down V.” He was told the burn was “half a millimeter from my optic nerve.”
This screenshot from the KUSA 9news segment “Next” shows Justin Misuraca with a triangular blur overlay that the program says represents the visual effect of the laser injury. The area is highlighted below between the green lines to better define the area.
Misuraca reported this in an October 25 2017 interview with a reporter, so the vision loss was still present over a month after the laser illumination.
The pilot on the September 15 flight also reported temporary blindness but has no permanent injury.
According to Flight for Life, there have been “at least a dozen times in the last couple of years” that the organization’s aircraft have been targeted by a laser beam. The source of the September 15 laser illumination is unknown.
From October 25 and October 26 reports by 9news.com
Coast Guard seeks tips, information on recent laser attacks on helicopters
MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — The Coast Guard is asking the public for tips or information regarding recent laser attacks aimed against rescue helicopter crews.
The latest attack occurred Tuesday evening near the Arcata-Eureka airport as an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay was conducting a practice instrument approach.
The helicopter was southeast of the airport when a green laser coming from a wooded area about three miles east of McKinleyville, was shined directly at the aircraft. The pilots quickly landed so the crew members could receive medical checkups.
“Laser attacks against aircraft are a crime because of the danger they present to aviators and the public," said Capt. Greg Fuller, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay. “Our aircrews put their own lives on the line on a daily basis to save others in distress. These laser incidents significantly impact our ability to respond and we ask the public's help in identifying the sources.”
It is a federal crime, as well as a violation of California state law to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. Punishment under state law ranges from civil penalties of $1,000 up to $2,000 and three years imprisonment. Federal law allows for a punishment of imprisonment of up to five years.
Lasers, including common laser pointers, can cause glare, flash blindness, temporary loss of night vision and more permanent damage such as blind spots, cataracts and partial or total loss of visual acuity.
The Coast Guard encourages anyone who sees someone lasing any aircraft to call 911 to report the crime immediately.
Information about some California aviation laser incidents, including arrests and convictions of laser aircraft attackers, can be seen here: http://laserpointersafety.com/news/news/aviation-incidents_files/tag-california.php
The crew was able to direct ground officers to a residence. There they identified Christopher Wayne Flora, 35, as the suspect and arrested him.
He was charged with suspicion of discharging a laser at an operations control center aircraft, which is a felony. Bail was set at $25,000.
From the San Bernardino Sun
The aircraft was monitoring crowds attending a football match in Belfast. The unnamed 19-year-old was charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft and shining a light to dazzle or distract a pilot.
From the Belfast Telegraph
The helicopter was searching for a violent robbery suspect. The crew was forced to stop the search in order to identify the source of the laser.
Laser light from a direct hit overwhelms the camera lens for one frame of the CHP helicopter’s surveillance
A second later, the suspect can be seen (left) walking with what appears to be a child (right) in the middle of the road.
The CHP crew directed ground officers to a San Leandro house where the woman was arrested and a laser pointer was confiscated. CHP said the woman had other lasers in her home as well.
The FBI is investigating.
From the Mercury News and KRON (link to video is here)
One pilot said “We want this to stop before we have to dig one of our aircraft out of the beach…. Incidents like this are happening more and more frequently, three different occasions recently, and that’s just our pilots – there are many more flying clubs and school at Blackpool Airport.”
An incident on September 22 2017 happened to a pilot flying prior to a fireworks competition. A laser came from the crowd, deliberately tracking the aircraft. He said “The whole cockpit lit up, it was a real shock.”
Three frames from the Sept. 22 incident show the laser, barely visible in the first photo, lighting up the cockpit window in the second photo and nearly obscuring all ground lights in the third photo.
Blackpool Airport is in Lancashire, in northwest England. There do not appear to be any suspects or arrests in the recent incidents.
From The Gazette
According to a police Facebook post, “the officers were temporarily blinded by the laser, but there were no serious injuries.” The source of the laser was traced to a vehicle on Manassas Gap Court in Centreville.
Carlos Zapata Rivero was charged with shining a light/laser pointer at an aircraft, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
From WJLA TV and FairfaxNews
Officers on the ground had seen a red laser beam that appeared to be attached to a firearm. The helicopter was sent to investigate. A detective in the helicopter testified that he saw a bright red light which was pointed at the aircraft numerous times. The detective said he was worried for the pilot’s vision, and also that the laser could be attached to a weapon.
He radioed a description of the suspect to ground officers. Based on his appearance, officers approached Javonnie Silburn, then approximately 19 years old. They asked if he had a laser; Silburn said yes and showed them a device that had both an LED light and a red laser beam. He was arrested on a charge of endangering an aircraft.
Later Silburn told police that he did not do it, that it was another man.
Prior to the trial, Silburn attempted to plead guilty to shining the laser at the helicopter one time. But the Crown did not accept the plea due to the multiple times the laser was directed at the aircraft.
The endangerment charge was apparently dropped. Silburn, now 21, is being tried on a charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior within the sight or hearing of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.
Under cross-examination on the first day of the trial, the detective admitted he could not say definitely that Silburn was the person with the laser, only that he identified a man with an Afro hairstyle and short pants.
According to the Cayman Compass, there was a separate laser incident in November 2015 involving police aircraft.
From stories in the Cayman Compass by Carol Winker. (August 31 2017 story about trial being set, Sept. 13 2017 story about initial court proceedings, Sept. 14 2017 story about trial being delayed for a few days).
UPDATED September 28 2017 - The trial was delayed until October 11 2017.
The incident happened around 11 pm on August 8 2017. An off-duty police officer happened to see the pair on a hotel balcony in Torremolinos, a coastal resort town about 13 miles south of the airport.
Photo from Spanish police showing laser light coming from a balcony
Two laser pens were seized:
Pilots of at least three commercial aircraft had complained about being dazzled with green light as they prepared to land.
While the British father and son were not arrested, Spanish National Police called it a “very serious violation” and said the fine could be from €30,000 to €600,000 (USD $35,000 to $600,000).
From Sky News, the Daily Mail and ITV News
They notified ground officers who located the vehicle, found a laser inside, and arrested 18-year-old Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero, aka Abrahan Nasser. The officers also found marijuana in the vehicle.
Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero
Romero was charged with pointing a laser at an aircraft — a felony — and with possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce. Records show Romero had previously been arrested for marijuana possession, for speeding, and for driving without a license.
Since January 2017 there have been 19 incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration of lasers being pointed at aircraft in the Charlotte area.
From the Charlotte Observer and WSCO TV
The officers told the child and the child’s family that the laser misuse was hazardous. Officers confiscated the laser and forwarded the police report to the Multnomah County Juvenile Department. Fox 12 reported “the suspect was taken to the Multnomah County juvenile detention center.”
The police sent the following tweet:
This is a close-up of the label:
The next night, a green laser beam was pointed for 5-10 seconds at a commercial aircraft as it was preparing to land in Charlottetown, which is about 60 km east of Fernwood. The beam came from the Brackley Beach area about 15 km northwest of the Charlottetown Airport, at about 11 pm local time. Neither pilot in the WestJet aircraft looked into the light; they were able to land without incident.
RCMP on July 17 asked the public for help in finding the perpetrators of these incidents.
A follow-up news story quoted a former pilot as saying the person responsible should “face justice.” He said it was a “very dangerous thing to have happen to you, and they are so destructive… Make the penalties very severe when they’re caught.”
In Canada, shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense punishable to up to five years in prison and/or up to $100,000.
On July 18, a witness contacted RCMP to say he was on Brackley Beach from 10:00 to 11:30 pm. He said a child of about 10-12 years old was using a laser to point at several things, including two aircraft. He said the child was tracing the path of a plane, but was not trying to shine it in the cockpit.
The child and his or her family is not known. RCMP said charges might not be placed in this case: “It does appear that this specific incident was a child at play and not a direct criminal offence. That being said, the child was in the custodial guardianship of two adults and RCMP are asking that items of this nature not be used for entertainment and not be provided to young children as they are unaware of the danger that they can inflict."
The director general for civil aviation, Aaron McCrorie, said there were 333 reported incidents in 2012, 590 incidents in 2015, and 527 in 2016. He said there was only one reported laser/aircraft incident in PEI in the past five years; it took place in 2015.
McCrorie said there have been no accidents in Canada due to such incidents but there have been some cases of permanent eye damage to pilots.
From CBC News (initial report, follow-up, witness report, McCrorie quotes) and OHS Canada
Note: LaserPointerSafety reached out to Transport Canada for clarification about McCrorie’s claim of cases of permanent eye damage to pilots, since we are unaware of any such documented cases with civil pilots either in Canada or worldwide. On July 20 2017, we received an email response from Julie Leroux, Communications Advisor, Media Relations, Transport Canada:
“Laser pointers have serious effects that distract and temporarily blind pilots. While Transport Canada has received reports of pilots experiencing eye damage as a result of a laser strike, due to doctor-patient confidentiality, the department is not in a position to provide details about specific cases.
Generally, pilots report suffering from eye irritation or light sensitivity after being struck in the eye by a laser, which could seriously affect their ability to fly safely.
Mr. Aaron McCrorie, Director General, Civil Aviation, was referring to Canadian cases only.”
On July 26 2017, Leroux further clarified via email:
"Mr. Aaron McCrorie, Director General, Civil Aviation, was misquoted in the [CBC News] story you reference. During the interview he stated Transport Canada is aware of incidents that caused temporary damage to pilots’ eyes, but did not refer to a specific case of permanent blinding. Transport Canada is not aware of any cases where a pilot suffered permanent eye damage as the result of a laser strike."
The helicopter was helping the Coastguard trying to locate a lost person, when the laser illumination occurred.
The man was arrested for endangering an aircraft and was released on bail.
On July 5 2017, the helicopter pilots saw green laser light in the cockpit. They were able to trace it to a location in Johns Creek where ground officers arrested Marius Lizunas. He told them he was using a laser rangefinder to “check the range” to the aircraft.
Lizunas was charged with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
Seeking Information Regarding Laser Strikes
Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for the Northern District of Ohio, and Calvin Williams, chief of Cleveland Division of Police, are seeking information regarding two recent laser strikes, one against a Cleveland Division of Police helicopter and one against a MetroHealth Life helicopter.
Both of these laser strikes occurred on July 4, 2017, at approximately 10:15 p.m. from the 3000 block of West 31st Street in Cleveland, Ohio.
The main hazard for aviation is that pilots can be distracted or temporarily flash-blinded by the light from a laser beam. The light often is a large light at aviation distances, unlike the tiny dot a laser makes at close range. Individuals often do not realize that traveling over hundreds of feet a tiny, two-centimeter laser beam spreads to become approximately six feet of light that can block a pilot’s vision. Most laser strike incidents reported occur at flights under 10,000 feet with the highest percentage being altitudes under 6,000 feet.
Laser strikes are investigated by local and federal law enforcement. Under 18 USC 39 (A), 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. Under 49 USC Section 46301 (a) (5) (A), the FAA may seek a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation for aiming a laser at an aircraft in violation of C.F.R. Section 91.11.
The FBI and our law enforcement partners are asking the public if they have any knowledge of the laser strikes that occurred last week. If anyone has any information please call the Cleveland Division of the FBI at (216) 522-1400. Tips can remain anonymous and reward money is available for the successful identification and prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for these laser strikes.
Any questions regarding this news release can be directed to SA Vicki D. Anderson at the Cleveland Office of the FBI at (216) 522-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Sargent Jennifer Ciaccia at the Cleveland Division of Police at (216) 623-5033.
From an FBI Cleveland news release dated July 12 2017. Here are two typical news reports, from Fox8 and from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
She was arrested and charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. Schenker faces a maximum jail sentence of five years, and a fine up to $100,000.
A police spokesperson said their helicopters experience about six laser pointer incidents each year. He said “It’s been fairly quiet lately, which is really good.”
From the Edmonton Journal, and RedDeer News Now via the Canadian Press
On December 29 2016, Jay Scott Howell aimed the laser 11 times at the helicopter. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 7 2017 on one count of aiming the laser. The maximum penalty is up to five years in federal prison and/or up to a $250,000 fine.
Howell pleaded guilty on April 10 2017 to the charge.
While U.S. sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month prison term, the judge sentenced Howell to one year of probation. The judge cited Howell’s age (53), limited criminal history and remorse for his actions. The prosecuting U.S. attorney did not object to the sentence, telling the judge “He’s the perfect candidate. I don’t anticipate ever seeing Mr. Howell again.”
If probation is revoked, Howell could serve up to the maximum sentence of five years.
From the Tulsa World
Seventy-four other police officers were injured; one was hospitalized with an eye injury after a firework exploded in his face.
From the Mirror and Reuters
UPDATED JULY 9 2017 - After intensive investigations, German police arrested a 27-year-old Hamburg man “on suspicion of attempted murder”. The unnamed man blinded the two pilots “so badly while they were up in the air that they had to stop working because they couldn’t see.”
The aircraft was on patrol when it was illuminated around 10:30 pm. The beam was traced to a house. Ground officers arrested Darren Williams.
The teen’s father said Darren was unaware that it was illegal to aim a laser at aircraft. “It was an honest mistake. He is really remorseful about it.”
He was charged on both state and federal counts. On the federal charge, he could face up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.
From News9, Fox25 and KOCO News 5
A group of three U.S. ships — a destroyer, an amphibious assault ship, and a dry cargo ship — were transiting international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, according to a U.S. military statement. The Iranian naval vessel, said by one source to be a missile ship, came within 800 yards of the assault ship and scanned two of the U.S. ships with a spotlight.
The helicopter was flying alongside the deployment when the Iranian targeting laser was aimed at it, setting off the flares.
There was no report of injury to the helicopter pilots. A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet said “Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles.”
Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion
From Newsweek and CNN
UPDATED JULY 16 2017 - Iran claimed it did not point a laser at the helicopter. The Tasnim News Agency said “A top commander of Iran’s Navy denied reports that the country’s naval forces had pointed a laser at an airborne US Marine Corps helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz back in June. Commander of Iran's First Naval Zone Admiral Hossein Azad categorically denied reports of such incident.”
The report had no additional details, such as what could have set off the helicopter’s flares as claimed by the initial U.S. report.
From the Tasnim News Agency and the Tehran Times
In August 2016, several aircraft flying in or out of Berlin Schönefeld Airport reported glare from a laser beam A police helicopter was sent to investigate, and was also hit by laser light.
The unnamed perpetrator later said in court he had not been aiming at anything specific in the night sky, and that he did not see the helicopter.
He was sentenced in Zossen (Brandenburg) District Court; Zossen is about 20 miles south of Berlin.
From Spiegel Online in original German and in Google-translated English. Thanks to Alex Hennig for bringing this to our attention.
The incident happened February 21 2015. Asarel Felix Lombera used a $20 green laser pointer to track a police helicopter for about 15 seconds. The light entered the cockpit and momentarily dazed a crew member.
In February 2017 Lombera pleaded guilty. In his plea agreement, he said he was aware that what he did was dangerous and distracting. At sentencing in May, Lombera received a probationary sentence of community service and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
From The Daily Bulletin
Gary Cameron believed the police were spying on him when he repeatedly shone the Class 2 (less than one milliwatt) at the helicopter — even as ground officers were interviewing him, prior to arrest.
According to his defense lawyer, Cameron had psychological problems for which he was seeking treatment. He pleaded guilty to culpable and reckless conduct.
From the Scottish Sun
UPDATED December 22 2017 - Cameron was sentenced September 7 2017 to hours of unpaid work and to supervision. As of December 21 2017, Cameron had not yet been provided with information about the unpaid work order, or the start date. A court review hearing was set for March 23 2018. From the Clydebank Post.
On October 28 2013, Rogers aimed a laser three times at a Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department helicopter. The pilot had “eye strain” for several hours after the incident.
Rogers was indicted on the laser charge on August 26 2014. He pleaded guilty on September 8 2016 to one felony count.
At sentencing, federal prosecutors said that Rogers had an extensive history of criminal activity including drug and property crimes, which should be a factor in a longer 4-year sentence.
Rogers’ attorney said the sentence should be shorter. While Rogers knew it was illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft, “he had no knowledge of the highly scientific manner in which a laser endangers an airplane.”
In a sentencing memorandum, he attorney wrote “The average person would believe that a laser beam hitting an aircraft would cause a small spot to appear on the aircraft or in the cockpit, much like shining a laser beam at a wall. It is not common knowledge that the laser actually increases with size as it extends, and that the glass of the cockpit can expand the light further, causing it to light up the entire cockpit.”
From KY3.com, the Kansas City Star, and an article by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica with additional links to legal materials.
Connor Grant Brown
Brown faces state charges of reckless endangerment, obstructing and hindering, and shining a laser pointer at an aircraft.
According to a trooper who was in the helicopter, the laser had a power of 100 milliwatts. The U.S. limit for laser pointers is 5 milliwatts. [The laser itself is legal, but it is illegal to sell lasers over 5 milliwatts as a “pointer” or for pointing purposes. And of course it is illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft in the U.S.]
The trooper also said “he experienced spots on his vision after the laser hit the helicopter, as if he had just looked at the sun. While most sun spots disappear in a few blinks, the spots from the laser did not. He also experienced minor pain that he described to be similar to windburn.”
The trooper said the helicopter pilot described his vision as “sandy.”
A statement of probable cause described Brown’s explanation to troopers regarding why he aimed the laser at the helicopter.
At about 1 am Brown woke up due to a “buzzing sound.” The unknown aircraft flew over his house “every minute, at some points shaking the windows.” Brown aimed his $20 internet-purchased laser “to signal the operator to stop flying so close to the house.”
After police showed up at his house, “my heart sank in my chest.” He apologized and said he did not mean to cause any harm from his “horrible, horrible mistake… From start to finish, what I did was wrong.”
From CBS Baltimore, Carroll County Times initial story, Carroll County Times follow-up story, and Carroll County Times editorial “Use common sense with laser pointers.” Thanks to Capt. Dan Hewett and Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
Hemopo admitted aiming at the aircraft, but not at the cockpit. He further said he was unaware the laser light could be dangerous.
In August 2016 Hemopo pleaded guilty to charges of “causing unnecessary danger.” This has a fine of up to NZD $10,000 and one year in prison.
The Crown dropped charges of “reckless disregard for the safety of others,” which has a maximum penalty of 14 years.
On September 28 2016, Hemopo failed to appear for sentencing. The judge issued an arrest warrant for Hemopo.
On December 1 2016, Hemopo was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail.
From Stuff.co.nz and the New Zealand Herald.
US: UPDATED - Convicted laser offender apologizes, saying he lost everything for three seconds of aiming laser at helicopter
According to an FBI press release, Barry Lee Bowser Jr., then 51 years old, aimed “the beam of a laser at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter that was providing support to ground units responding to a man armed with a gun. At trial, the evidence established that the mission was diverted when the pilot of Air-1 was struck by direct hits from a powerful green laser that illuminated the cockpit and tracked the aircraft near the approach path to Meadows Field Airport. The laser strikes caused the pilot to experience flash blindness, eye discomfort, and pain that lasted several hours. In imposing sentence on September 28 2015, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill found that Bowser had obstructed justice before trial by concealing the laser and providing false statements to law enforcement and at trial through his false testimony about the offense.”
On September 23 2016, Bowser wrote to apologize, and to describe how his life had been ruined:
I'm writing this letter to apologize to the community of Bakersfield and to the Kern County Sheriff's Department —especially to the flight crew of KCSO Air One, piloted by Deputy Austin.
I was convicted of one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and sentenced to 24 months in a federal penitentiary, then 36 more months of supervised release for a total of 60 months — five years — plus ordered to pay a special assessment fee of $10,000. I am very lucky the pilot was an expert and highly skilled at piloting the helicopter.
I also want to educate anyone who owns a laser and might be inclined to use it the way I did: Learn from my mistake. I am now just getting out of prison. I have paid dearly, for I have lost my girlfriend, my dog, my home, my vehicle. Everything I owned, everything I have worked for 30 years of my life, is gone.
For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life. I am now 54 years old and I have no one and nothing but the clothes I was given when I was released from prison.
From Bakersfield.com. Original LaserPointerSafety.com story about Bowser is here. There is a small discrepancy; the FBI said Bowser’s sentence was 21 months while Bowser stated it was 24 months.
UPDATED December 20 2016 — An extensive profile of Barry Bowser’s laser pointer incident, trial, and his life before and after his arrest, was published by Ars Technica. The 4,000 word article by editor Cyrus Farivar describes a convicted criminal and meth addict who said he was trying to go straight and clean.
On the evening of September 11 2014 he was bored and found a laser pointer which had been given to him as a dog toy. The dog soon tired of playing so Bowser aimed at a billboard, and two radio towers before he hit something in the sky — the Sheriff’s Office helicopter. When police arrived, Bowser told them he was testing the laser’s capabilities. During his trial in federal court, the case hinged on Bowser’s intent. (The applicable federal law states “Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft … shall be fined … or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.)
Prosecutor Karen Escobar said the lasing was done knowingly: “[Y]our common sense tells you there was an aiming because there were direct hits of the aircraft, and there was more than one strike.” Bowser’s public defender said there was no intent — Bowser had not meant to aim a laser pointer at a helicopter. After 4.5 hours of deliberation, Bowser was found guilty.
As stated in Bowser’s September 23 2016 letter, the conviction and jail time was ruinous: “For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life.”
Farivar’s profile is one of the few in-depth examinations of a laser pointer arrest, conviction and aftermath. His article also links to an annotated transcript of day 1 and of day 2 of Bowser’s trial, and annotated related court documents. Farivar has previously reported a number of stories about laser pointer misuse for Ars Technica.
When deputies arrived, they told Brandon J. Neeser to show his hands. Neeser pointed the laser device at the deputies. They saw it was not connected to a gun so they did not take defensive action. The deputies arrested Neeser, who told them he did not know it was illegal and he “thought it would be funny” to aim at the helicopter because they were aiming a light at him.
Neeser faces two felony counts of unlawful discharge of a laser.
From MyFoxSpokane and KREM
Evans, 25, of San Antonio, Texas, worked as a security guard in a medical clinic. Workers at the clinic told FBI agents that Evans had laser pointers of different colors and sometimes aimed them at employees.
On October 27 2015, Evans stood outside the clinic and lit up a WOAI-TV news helicopter three times with a green laser:
Evans in the clinic parking lot, aiming his laser pointer
The laser beam goes directly into the cockpit
The helicopter pilot was able to help ground officers find Evans’ location. Evans initially denied his involvement to investigating FBI agents. After questioning with a polygraph, Evans said he did hit the helicopter and in fact had previously aimed lasers at other aircraft as well.
Evans will be sentenced December 12. He could receive up to five years in federal prison and be fined up to $250,000.
This is the second guilty plea in Texas this month. Juan Peralez, 57, of La Joya Texas pleaded guilty on September 2 to aiming a laser pointer at a Border Patrol Helicopter.
From the Hastings Tribune, Houston Chronicle and News4SanAntonio
A police spokesperson said “It is an offense we take extremely seriously and people need to realize the dangers of this reckless behavior. Our message is clear, use them and you will be arrested.”
The severity of the medical complaint, and the pilot’s diagnosis and treatment, were not known. A WestJet spokesperson cited privacy concerns.
The Boeing 737 flight originated in Toronto. The laser was said to have come from “a wooded area in the middle of nowhere”, when the plane was at about 3,500 feet altitude.
According to CBC, there were 40 laser incidents reported in Alberta in May 2016, and 500 incidents in all of Canada in 2015. (According to the Ottawa Citizen, there were 502 laser illuminations in the Transport Canada CADORS database in 2014, and 663 incidents in 2015.)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police from the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo were investigating the incident.
From CBC, CTV News and the National Post
The incident occurred on June 20 2016, when the helicopter pilot had to take evasive action to avoid the green beam. Another crew member guided ground officers to the laser perpetrator, where Peralez was arrested.
An infrared camera onboard the aircraft helped the crew locate the source of the laser beam. Ground officers found the pellet gun, which 19-year-old Nicholas Caranci had thrown to the ground as he ran away. The IR camera helped the helicopter crew direct officers to the teen’s location.
In an attempt to escape arrest, Nicholas Carianci ran from the court at right and hopped over a fence, after throwing his pellet gun with a laser sight into weeds (green circle). Thanks to the helicopter IR surveillance camera, police were able to pick up both the teen and the pellet gun.
Caranci was arrested and charged with mischief endangering life, unlawfully engaging in behavior that endangers an aircraft, and projecting a bright light source into navigable airspace.
From the Mirror
The incident happened August 25 2016 in Mission, Texas. The pilot’s vision was temporarily impaired as the laser light lit up the cockpit. The pilot directed ground officers to a home, where Aaron Caceres, 27, and his brother Francisco Caceres, 24, confessed to the laser misuse.
Aaron (27) and Francisco (24) Caceres
On November 14, 2015, the OCSD helicopter was responding to a traffic accident, looking for any victims who may have been thrown from an overturned vehicle. The helicopter was illuminated multiple times by green laser light. The tactical flight officer called the multiple strikes “relentless.”
The helicopter crew was able to direct police on the ground to the backyard of a residence. Lopez was arrested on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft. After an investigation conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Ana Police Department and the FBI, Lopez was indicted on federal charges which culminated in his August 2016 prison sentence.
“This defendant knew that pointing the laser at the helicopter could cause the pilot blindness and endanger those operating the aircraft, but committed the crime anyway,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This was a senseless crime that warrants the sentence imposed by the court.”
United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford, said the offense was a “distraction” to the people in the air and that “people could die.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.
From a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California
The first incident occurred August 17 2016 at about 5:15 am. The light went into the pilot’s eye, leaving his vision “dangerously obstructed”, according to Cecily Fong, public information officer of the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.
The second incident happened on August 21 2016 at about 12:45 am. The pilot looked away in time to avoid the laser light, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s department.
News reports are unclear, but it appears the same aircraft and same pilot were involved in both incidents.
The flights were being done by the North Dakota Highway Patrol to monitor approximately 3,000 persons — most Native American tribal members — who wanted to block construction of the pipeline until a court hearing could take place over its impact to sacred sites and culturally important landscapes.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in to try and find the laser perpetrator(s).
Tara Houska, speaking on behalf of Honor the Earth, a non-profit organization supporting indigenous peoples’ environmental justice, said “Why launch a federal investigation into a laser pointer instead of asking what right the U.S. government has to fly surveillance planes over sovereign nations in the first place?”
From KELOland TV, Snopes, Forum News Service, Belleville News-Democrat and Intercontinental Cry magazine
While the first incident was being investigated, another laser illuminated the aircraft. This was traced to a 7-year-old. The child’s mother was given the laser pointer, along with a lecture about the dangers of aiming at aircraft. The child was not charged.
The distance between the two laser users was about 4 miles. The map below shows the ground location of the first and second incidents:
On July 25 Martinez pleaded not guilty to the two charges. He has prior court records which include felony unauthorized use of a vehicle and failure to appear. He also has been charged with heroin delivery and possession of heroin and methamphetamine; that case is pending.
From the Associated Press via the Register-Guard, and OregonLive
During the March 9 2016 incident, intermittent flashes from the laser caused the pilot to take evasive action. The search for a missing person was called off, and instead the crew tracked the laser beam to two men in a park in the Newfoundpool area of Leicester. When ground officers apprehended the men, each man said the other had been using the laser.
Martin Gary Jayes, 46, had 71 criminal convictions on his record and was drunk when arrested for the laser offense. He was sentenced to eight months in jail for recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.
His neighbor Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail.
The judge said the men’s actions had “grave risks” and was “life-threatening.”
Jayes’ lawyer said “This offense was committed in drink by someone who knew better. He’s badly let himself down.”
Plaskiewicz’s lawyer said “He knows he’s acted in a very stupid way. There was no intention to bring down a helicopter. If it wasn’t so serious it might have been a childhood prank.”
From the Leicester Mercury. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
The helicopter was lased twice while in the air, and a third time when it landed. Officers traced the laser to Emily Ann Hunter. She was charged with illumination of an aircraft, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $1,000.
Emily Ann Hunter
Officers in the helicopter were searching for a kidnapping suspect when they were illuminated 15-20 times as they flew over Weirsdale, Florida, about an hour northwest of Orlando. The pilot was directly hit in the eyes “at least five times” according to a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.
The airborne officers used night-vision equipment to find Phillip Willman. He was arrested and told officers he only aimed the laser at the helicopter once. Willman was charged with six counts of pointing laser light at a driver or pilot.
The Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said that during 2016, there have been “over five” incidents where lasers were aimed at helicopters, two of which ended with an arrest.
From FOX35 Orlando
From BBC News
The instructor was not injured. There was no information available whether there was anyone else in the aircraft at the time.
The incident is being classified as “endangering an aircraft," and police are investigating.
From the Daily Mail
“The cockpit crew of Alitalia flight AZ4000 on Friday 12 February noticed a laser light from the ground, as did other aircraft flying towards Mexico City, as they prepared to land at the Mexican capital’s airport. The aircraft Captain, Massimiliano Marselli, promptly reported to the control tower what the cockpit crew had witnessed, which is standard procedure with these type of matters, and similarly it is usual practice for the control tower to alert the competent, local authorities. None of our cockpit crew or any passengers on board were injured by the beam and the aircraft landed safely. The aircraft, an Airbus A330, was enroute from Havana in Cuba to Mexico.”
According to the Sun, air traffic control transmissions recorded a number of pilots reporting laser strikes.
From the New York Daily News; Alitalia statement tweeted by Jon Williams, foreign editor of ABC News. Thanks to Alberto Kellner for bringing this to our attention.
Virgin’s website stated that “Following this incident the first officer reported feeling unwell. The decision was taken by both pilots to return to Heathrow rather than continue the transatlantic crossing."
The airline said passengers would stay overnight and would then be able to fly to JFK Airport “as soon as possible”.
Police were attempting to find the laser source, said to be 6-7 miles from the airport. An article in the Daily Mail included a map showing the aircraft’s takeoff pattern, and the area where the laser beam was thought to have originated.
From the Telegraph, Daily Mail, BBC News and ITV. Audio recording from AirportWebcams.net.
UPDATED February 15 2016: The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) called for “the Government to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them.” From a statement on BALPA’s website, reprinted here.
UPDATED February 17 2017: A forum post claiming to be from the Virgin Atlantic pilot gave details about the incident. The person posted under the handle “scroggs”. He wrote: “I am the Captain in this event…. It was a red beam, not a green one. It was indeed reported as and when it happened. The pictures we got show its ground position (which wasn’t Legoland as far as I can see), and will hopefully help those in the know to estimate its power and provenance.”
Scroggs continued: “As was reported in the news, the FO did receive retinal damage from what appeared to be a 'lucky' passing sweep, but it's not permanent and will heal fully. There was no visual impairment during the flight, but there was no way of knowing (for me) that that would continue to be the case. The symptoms were slow in making themselves apparent. That's about all I'm prepared to say for now.” From post #173 in a thread on PPRuNE.org about the incident.
Background commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com
After around 40,000 laser incidents reported to U.S. FAA and U.K. CAA from 2004 through 2015*, as of February 14 2016 this is the first occurrence we are aware of where a commercial aircraft has turned around and not completed its flight, due to a laser incident from the ground.
- There have been a few instances where a flight has changed course, such as pilot doing a “go around” on landing because of laser light on the first attempt.
- Some police and rescue operations have had their missions disrupted by a laser; this has been common for the U.S. Coast Guard which has operational rules requiring a mission to abort if there is laser illumination.
- In 2013, there was an incident where an aircraft made an emergency diversion 224 miles short of its destination, because a passenger onboard was using a homemade laser to burn several small holes in fabric near his seat. This is the only other emergency diversion we are aware of due to laser misuse.
As of February 14 2016, there is no confirmed, documented case of permanent eye injury to a civilian pilot (commercial, general aviation, or police/rescue) due to exposure in the cockpit to laser light from the ground.
In a fall 2014 case, first publicly reported about a year later, a British Airways pilot illuminated by a laser on landing at Heathrow was treated at a Sheffield hospital for spots on his retina. The case was reported in a medical journal in January 2016 which said the area had healed within two weeks. An expert close to the case, who directly examined the journal paper and the evidence, told LaserPointerSafety.com in February that he does not believe the retinal injury was laser-induced, and that it was “not confirmed” as a laser injury “despite what the journal paper says.”
*29,097 laser incidents reported to U.S. FAA, Jan 1 2004 through Dec 31 2015; plus “more than 8,998 laser incidents” reported to U.K. CAA “between 2009 and June 2015.”
The control tower had called police around 10 pm after the two laser illuminations. Using binoculars, an air traffic controller had spotted a person in the area where the laser light came from.
Police picked up Gerardo Sanchez “because he was the only one walking near the airport” at the time. Sanchez had a laser on him, and told an officer he had been pointing the laser in different directions. He said he had aimed it in the general direction of an aircraft, and at the control tower several times. Sanchez said he was studying to be a pilot at the ATP Flight School, located at the airport; ATP had not confirmed whether Sanchez was a student.
Two air traffic controllers had laser light in their eyes. One pilot told police “the green laser did affect him for about one or two seconds because it was pointed at his eyes.” The other pilot saw the beam but the light was not pointed directly at him.
Sanchez was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver/pilot, which is a felony.
From the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, also located in Daytona Beach, lists a “Gerardo Sanchez” as a student of theirs who was hired April 2014 as an instructor pilot by the Saudi Flight Academy. The photo shows an older person who does not resemble the 23-year-old Gerardo Sanchez who claimed to be a student pilot. We are mentioning this to avoid any confusion between the two Sanchez’s.
Sharma’s lawyer said the teen “was goofing around to see how high [the laser] could project into the sky”, and did not intend to create a hazard.
From the Winnipeg Sun
The “Star Shower” laser projector, sold for $40 in stores including Wal-Mart, Target and CVS during the 2015 Christmas season. Details on the potential hazard are here.
On December 3 2015, a commercial airplane at 13,000 feet altitude reported being illuminated by what was believed to be a “laser holiday light display.” The light was traced to a home 22 miles east of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. A pilot who was not involved told CBSDFW that likely the homeowner was asked to re-aim or remove the display, to prevent beams from going in the air. According to the news station, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said was the first case they had heard of, involving holiday laser lights.
However, NBC Los Angeles reported on an earlier incident. On November 18 2015, a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft sent a “distress call” to Sacramento police after being illuminated with laser light. A homeowner was advised to be more careful with the beam location. (It is not known why the FAA was not aware of this earlier incident.) Here is the NBC Los Angeles video:
On December 6 2015, three aircraft reported laser lights which were traced to a holiday display at at home three miles from Kansas City International airport. The homeowner told police he had “no idea he was endangering the public”
From CBSDFW, NBC Los Angeles, KSHB Kansas City. For much more information on the device and its potential hazards, see this LaserPointerSafety.com story.
The incident took place in Richmond Hill, Georgia. The Coast Guard urged anyone with information to come forward.
McAuslan said the identity of the person, who was acting as co-pilot at the time of the incident and thus was not operating the aircraft, could not be revealed at present due to it being reviewed by an “employment tribunal.” British Airways said they are investigating the claimed injury.
McAuslan said that “kids’” lasers could not cause injury but that laser weapons could now be purchased illegally. [Lasers over 1 milliwatt in power are not legal for sale to the general public in Britain.] He said “We’re very concerned about it. When something as strong as this comes on the scene it starts to worry us.”
BALPA is also concerned over a survey of its pilot members, showing that 50% had reported a laser/aircraft incident during the period from November 2014 to November 2015.
According to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, there have been about 4-5 laser incidents reported each day on average, over the past four years. From January 1 to June 30 2015, there were more than 400 laser incidents reported to CAA.
From the Guardian, the Express, the Evening Standard, and the Belfast Telegraph
UPDATED - April 20 2016: Significant doubt has been cast on whether the eye damage was caused by a laser. In January 2016, a medical journal report was published by two ophthalmologists and a laser safety regulator. The report stated that there was no long-term negative effect on vision: “The pilot’s symptoms fully resolved 2 wk later.”
In February 2016 a very knowledgeable expert, who directly reviewed all evidence in the case, told LaserPointerSafety.com he “doesn’t believe it was laser-induced” and that the injury being caused by a laser was “not confirmed, despite what the journal paper says.”
This is confirmed by an April 2016 editorial written by three leading U.K. laser safety experts — including the laser safety regulator who co-authored the January 2016 medical journal report. The experts concluded the case is suspect for a number of reasons; they do not believe laser targeting caused the alleged injury. They wrote: “Only one case of alleged retinal damage to a pilot resulting from laser targeting of aircraft has been reported, although not in a peer review ophthalmic journal. This case is suspect because first and foremost, the metrology and exposure geometry would suggest insufficient energy could have entered the eye to produce irreversible damage and second the fundus anomaly is in the wrong location, the wrong shape and resulted in an extremely transient reported loss of VA [visual acuity] with full recovery.”
Analysis and commentary by LaserPointerSafety.com
If the pilot’s injury was caused by the laser exposure, this would have been the first documented case of a permanent laser eye injury to a civilian pilot. It would also have been the first case where a civilian pilot was unable to continue to be qualified to fly, due to laser exposure while in an aircraft.
There may be military cases of laser eye injury but if so, these would likely be classified and thus not be known to LaserPointerSafety.com. (There was a 1997 case of a military observer who had a claimed eye injury which was later found by laser injury experts to be not caused by his laser exposure.)
[Note: The publicity from this led to widespread news stories that the 20 total incidents which happened that night was a large number. In fact, it was only slightly more than the current 2015 average of 18.3 reported incidents per night. More on this in a story in the News/Statistics section.]
One person tracked the aircraft and tweeted the resulting map (below). It shows aircraft converging on Atlantic Terminal Mall, an urban shopping center across Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center sports arena near the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill areas of Brooklyn.
WNBC Chopper 4 pilot Dennis Protsko helped police locate the source of the laser, a group of people in the rear of the “Energy Fuel” health food restaurant on Fulton Street.
From WNBC Chopper 4
According to NBCNewYork, “the cook was found holding a frying pan with the laser inside it when police went to the restaurant. He told police pointing the laser was meant to be a joke, according to sources. “
Two people were taken into custody. The cook, 20-year-old Ossieo Silva of the Flatbush-Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, was arrested. He was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment; one is a felony and one is a misdemeanor.
The New York Daily News quoted court documents as saying that Silva told police he never pointed a light at helicopters before, and he “thought it would be funny.” Bail was set at $20,000.
Some stories — and the tweet above — said three news helicopters, from WABC, WCBS and WNBC were involved in Brooklyn. Other stories said there were two helicopters, from WCBS and WNBC. The confusion may be due to the fact that WABC’s NewsCopter 7 was involved in an earlier New Jersey lasing incident. (It may also be that the WABC aircraft flew from New Jersey to the Brooklyn scene and thus was involved in both incidents.)
About thirty minutes before the Brooklyn incident, a laser was pointed at a WABC news helicopter flying over Elizabeth, New Jersey, which is about 12 miles straight-line from the Atlantic Terminal Mall and is near Newark Liberty Airport. The crew contacted police and assisted them in locating the source. A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with interference with transportation and utilizing a laser toward an aircraft.
Still frame, paused from WABC NewsCopter 7 video
The incident occurred on May 30 2015. Orlando Jose Chapa was in his driveway when he aimed a laser beam at a Department of Public Safety helicopter. He was arrested on September 23 2015, after being indicted by a federal grand jury.
He remains free on bond; a sentencing date has not been set. He could receive up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.
Orlando Jose Chapa
The helicopter crew radioed ground officers, who arrested Mark A. Geohagan, 55, of Ocala. He told officers it was “not a laser” but a laser comb. Geohagan said he was testing the distance the light could reach, and that he meant no harm. Geohagan was charged a few hours later with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot.
Mark A. Geohagan. His middle name was variously reported as “Allen” or “Albert”
Click to read more...
The Bosley LaserComb Elite used by Geohagan has nine red 650nm laser diodes arranged in a line, that normally are directed towards a person’s scalp. When aimed into space, it produces a single, “extremely bright” spot of light as described in more detail after the “Read More…” link below.
From the Ocala StarBanner and Orlando Sentinel. Thanks to Chuck Maricle, Ph.D., for background information on hair comb products. For additional description and analysis of laser combs, click the “read more…” link.
The helicopter crew, who were on a training mission, were able to trace the beam to a home in Agoura Hills, California. Arrested were 31-year-old Christopher Cooper and 33-year-old Tanjelina Meredith. They were charged with suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft, a felony.
From CBS Los Angeles
Scott Christopher Brown was given was given a 12-month conditional discharge, and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15 and costs of £85 by North Lincolnshire magistrates.
(For non-U.K. readers, “a conditional discharge is a sentence vitiating the finding of guilt in which the offender receives no punishment provided that, in a period set by the court [not more than three years], no further offence is committed.” In 2008, about 6% of sentences were conditional discharges.)
From the Scunthorpe Telegraph and the Wikipedia page on Discharge (sentence)
From the London Evening Standard
The incidents as a whole do not seem to be related. Two of the aircraft were struck near Warwick, New York, about 40 miles from Newark Liberty International Airport, two others were within 20 miles of Newark Liberty, and the fifth plane was about 20 miles southwest of LaGuardia Airport.
In addition, two airplanes approaching Boston Logan International Airport were illuminated by laser beams at 10:39 pm and 11:28 pm on July 22. One pilot said “The next thing I know, the entire cockpit goes green. It’s incredible scary losing your night vision when you are coming in to land. This is not at all funny, not at all, considering the incredible risk involved.”
The Boston Herald quoted a former pilot and crash investigator, Dale Leppard as saying “Last weekend [July 18-19] there were 38 incidents from San Diego to New York and several of them in New Jersey, including eight or nine within a few hours, which seems to me like it is a coordinated effort because they’re so spread out. I think it is a very serious issue and I’m wondering if it is being coordinated on social media. There’s just too many of them happening all at once over too wide of an area. The worst part is that it can blind you, literally. I don’t mean temporarily, I mean it can blind you for life.”
From the Benchmark Reporter and Boston Herald
Beginning at about 10 pm local time on July 21, until about 1 am on July 22, eight aircraft flying near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reported seeing green laser light. These included flights from American Airlines, Envoy (formerly American Eagle), Southwest Airlines and FedEx. The aircraft were at altitudes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet when they reported seeing the laser light.
Air traffic controllers routed other aircraft around the area where the laser beams originated. A DPS helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser beam, which led deputies to a home in Alvarado, which is about 35 miles south-southwest of DFW.
The three persons in the home initially denied doing anything wrong. Once deputies said there was video from the helicopter, Austin Lawrence Siferd admitted pointing a laser at the aircraft, “not realizing it was actually strong enough to reach the aircraft,” said a law enforcement spokesperson.
The local NBC station quoted Siferd’s fiancée, Brenda Arnold, as saying she purchased the laser for him: “I think that he probably did think that they were just looking at the stars. I really don't think he meant anything intentional. I really don’t.”
Siferd was charged with illumination of an aircraft by an intense light, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $300. More severe federal charges are pending.
Austin Lawrence Siferd
According to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson, no one was injured by the laser light. She also said there had been 59 reported laser incidents in North Texas from January 1 to July 22, 2015.
From the Associated Press via the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and NBCDFW.com
UPDATED October 14 2016: Siferd was sentenced to six months in federal prison. He had pleaded guilty to a felony indictment in March 2016. From CBSDFW and the Star-Telegram.
Pablo Cesar Sahagun, 26, was also charged with possessing seven “cricket bombs,” made by filling an empty CO2 cartridge with gunpowder or flash powder, and attaching a fuse. If convicted, Sahagun would face an additional ten years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of California press release dated July 21 2015
UPDATED - April 18 2016: Sahagun was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty on January 11 2016. From Bakersfield.com
All planes involved landed safely, and there were no reports of injuries [but see Updated information below]. Flight controllers did have to change the approach path so subsequent aircraft could avoid the area.
In a statement, the FAA said there were a total of 11 aircraft in and around New Jersey that reported laser illuminations. [Note: Due to the distances involved, it is not possible that all 11 were struck by the same laser beam.]
- Porter 141 was at 3,000 feet 15 miles southwest of Newark Liberty International Airport
- American Airlines 1472 was 20 miles southwest of Newark Airport
- United Airlines was at 9,000 feet seven miles from Newark Airport
- American Airlines 966 was at 3,00 feet 15 miles south of Newark Airport
- Delta Air Lines 504, Shuttle America 3489 and JetBlue 828 were at 3,000 feet four miles south of the Outerbridge Crossing [this is about 15 miles from Newark Airport]
- JetBlue 2779 did not report its location
- American Airlines 348 was at 9,000 feet over New Jersey heading to LaGuardia Airport
- One aircraft reported it was illuminated when it was over Ocean City [about 100 miles from Newark Airport]
- Republic Airlines 4632 reported it was at 9,000 feet seven miles northeast of Robbinsville [about 30 miles from Newark Airport]. The flight was heading to Pittsburgh, PA
In 2014, there were 28 laser incidents reported at Newark, 37 at LaGuardia and 17 at JFK Airport. As of mid-May 2015, there were 21 laser incidents at Newark, 36 at LaGuardia, and 5 at JFK.
From WWLP.com, CBS New York, My9NJ.com and WABC New York
UPDATED July 16 2015 6:51 PM EDT: ABC News stated that “the pilot of one plane reported having blurred vision, according to federal officials.”
There were no reports of injuries or damage caused by the laser, so the Navy “believes it was not of industrial or military grade quality….” A Navy public affairs officer from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command called the Iranian use of the laser as “unsafe” and “unprofessional.”
From CNN and Stars and Stripes. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention. Note: The U.S. Navy in November 2014 deployed the first laser weapon sent into trials on an active duty warship, the USS Ponce. Six commercial welding lasers are merged into a single beam of 30 kilowatts, that can be used against targets including Iranian gunboats, according to SlashGear.
Ground officers arrested Hines on four counts of endangerment: two for the police helicopter occupants, and two for the pilots of a fixed wing aircraft that was earlier hit by the laser.
The police pilots reported having headaches and seeing spots due to the laser exposure.
From the Foothills Focus
The contest took place on July 7 2015. One of the aircraft was a Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Ground officers arrested Rolando Espinoza, 22, and Shannan Winemiller, 21. Espinoza told deputies “he thought he heard that it’s illegal to point lasers at airplanes, but he wasn’t sure at the time.” Each man was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, a third degree felony in Florida.
From January 1 to July 7 2015, there were 47 laser/aircraft incidents reported to the FBI in Central and Southwest Florida. Sixteen of these were in the Orlando area.
Rolando Espinoza, left, and Shannan Winemiller
From the Orlando Sentinel
On August 25 2012, Rodriguez and his then-girlfriend repeatedly aimed a $8.00 green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter. On March 10 2014, Rodriguez was sentenced on two charges; one with a penalty of 5 years in prison and the other with a 14-year sentence. (According to an analysis by LaserPointerSafety.com, 8 of the 14 years were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.)
Rodriguez received 5 years in prison on a charge of aiming the laser at an aircraft (18 U.S.C. § 39A). This sentence was upheld by the Ninth Circuit. Judge Barry Silverman, writing for the panel, said that “the evidence showed that [Rodriguez] was attempting to see how far his laser would go at night - a stupid thing to do, yes, but there is no evidence that he was trying to interfere with the pilot.” Silverman added that this conviction “is designed for knuckleheads like him.”
But the 14-year sentence was overturned on the charge of willfully attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft in reckless disregard for human safety (18 U.S.C. § 32). Silverman wrote that this conviction "is designed for both the Osama bin Ladens of the world - people trying to bring down a plane, intending to cause harm - and those who are aware that their actions are dangerous and could harm others, but just don't care…. The failure to recognize this distinction is to fail to appreciate that Congress saw fit to create two different crimes, one more serious than the other, for two different types of offenders.”
The judges referenced an April 30 2015 decision in United States v. Gardenhire. In this case, judges said that even if a person knows that a laser is dangerous when pointed directly at someone’s eyes, they may not know the “bright light” danger miles away to a pilot operating at nighttime.
Silverman noted that to uphold a reckless endangerment charge, prosecutors would have to show that “similarly situated defendants, or even average people, understand how laser beams operate.” Just aiming at a helicopter "is not, in and of itself, sufficient to allow a rational factfinder to conclude that Rodriguez acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life.”
From Courthouse News Service and Ars Technica. The full decision of the court is reprinted below, click on the “Read More…” link.
UPDATED November 4 2016: Rodriguez appealed the June 2015 5-year sentence. On October 17 2016, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 5-year sentence. In an unpublished, unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel found the sentence was reasonable, even though advisory guidelines call for a sentence of only 21 to 27 months (1.75 to 2.25 years).
This was due to a number of factors: 1) “Rodriguez increased the dangerousness of the offense by striking the helicopter six or seven times,”, 2) minor children were involved, 3) he had a criminal history including gang involvement and 4) he was on probation when the laser illuminations occurred. From Ars Technica, Pasadena News Now and Courthouse News Service
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According to the FAA, the four flights, all taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport were American Airlines 185, Shuttle America 4213, and Delta Airlines 2292 and 2631. No injuries were reported.
New York Senator Charles Schumer repeated his previous support for the US government to ban “long-range” lasers. He said “We have to do something soon and not after a plane crashes.”
In an apparently unrelated incident at about 11:30 pm the same night, a Sun Country Airlines flight reported being illuminated with a green laser,
From CBS News and Newsday. Thanks to Kyle Strober for bringing the Newsday story to our attention.
The incident happened February 10 2014. The helicopter was helping to locate an Alzheimer’s patient. The green laser light caused the pilot “to become momentarily dazed by the intense light and caused him to lose the abiity to see outside the cockpit’s windows.”
From Inland News Today
The information about the crew member report came from an FAA spokesperson, Ian Gregor.
However, according to Frontier spokesperson Jim Faulkner speaking later, the pilot did not suffer an eye injury. After the plane landed, the pilot went to a hotel and did not seek medical care. Faulkner also said the incident did not affect any other flights.
From 8NewsNow.com, Fox5Vegas.com, and the Las Vegas Sun. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
At about 10 pm local time, the crew noticed a laser beam aimed at their aircraft. They were able to avoid having the beam go directly into their eye, thanks to quick reaction due to training which LAR holds on a regular basis.
A compaint was filed with Luxembourg Airport police. The incident did not interrupt a mission as the helicopter was returning from a German hospital when the laser beam was spotted.
From the Luxemburger Wort
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US: Appeals court says 30-month sentence for aiming laser at aircraft is too long; defendent did not know of laser risk
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
The judges sent the case back to the U.S. district court in Los Angeles for a new sentencing hearing under a new judge. Under the original sentencing guidelines, Gardenhire had been recommended for 27 to 33 months in prison taking into account the reckless endangerment charge, or 4 to 10 months in prison without the charge.
The appeals court noted that, prior to the March 2013 laser incident, a friend of Gardenhire said that shining a laser beam into another person’s eye could lead to blindness. The appeals court then went on to say that information was different from “knowing that a laser beam can be distracting to pilots who are both enclosed in a cockpit and at least 2,640 feet away. Nor did the government submit any evidence of what even an average person would know about the effects of aiming a laser beam at an aircraft…. That one knows that the laser is dangerous when pointed directly in a person’s eyes does not mean that one knows about the beam’s ability to expand and refract, rendering it particularly hazardous for pilots in an aircraft miles away, or that the danger is heightened at nighttime because the pilot’s eyes have adjusted to the dark.”
The court specifically referred to the lack of any notice, label or other information regarding the risk of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft: “Gardenhire heeded the only warning he was given—not to shine the laser directly in anyone’s eyes—and he was not immediately alerted to any additional risks he was creating by aiming the beam at an aircraft.”
Humberside Police helicopter photo of laser glare from February 11 2015 illumination
The men, aged 31 and 46, will appear at Beverley Magistrates Court on May 20 2015 on charges of endangering an aircraft, which has a penalty of up to two years in prison.
From BBC News and the Bridlington Free Press
ABC 7 News later reported that the pilot was “okay now”, and that the source is believed to be an industrial park in San Ramon.
The California Highway Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were notified. The FBI sent out an aircraft to try to find the laser source.
The pilot was flying for radio station KCBS in the San Francisco Bay area. San Ramon is about 20 miles west of Oakland. The KCBS traffic reporter in the plane, Ron Cervi, said he did not notice the laser until the pilot turned to him and said he had been struck by a laser beam “right in the eye.”
From KCBS and ABC 7 News
After the Southwest pilot reported the laser illumination, the helicopter located the source and sent ground units to investigate. A 15-year-old boy visiting his friend was found with the laser.
Police “explained the danger and legal repercussions” of aiming a laser at an aircraft to the teens. Charges were not filed because neither youth had a criminal record, and the teens expressed “remorse” at their actions.
From Fox 5 San Diego
The source of the laser is unknown.
From KUSA 9 News
Case 1: Johnny Alexander Quenga, 28, of Fresno
On March 5 2015, the Fresno Police Department helicopter Air 1 was illuminated by green laser light about six times over ten minutes. One crew member, who had been illuminated by lasers numerous times in the past, suffered temporary flashblindness, afterimages, a headache lasting several hours requiring pain medication, and dizziness. He said the beam was much brighter than in his past experience. The pilot had a momentary loss of night vision, and flew a wide orbit to avoid the beam. The pilot directed ground officers to the location.
However, a patrol car on the way to the suspect’s home was broadsided at an intersection by a Toyota 4Runner. The Jaws of Life were needed to rescue one of the officers. Both officers in the car were treated at a hospital for serious injuries. The officer driving was knocked unconscious, had upper body and leg injuries, and some chipped teeth. The passenger officer had a broken leg and a fracture in his back that may require surgery. (The 4Runner driver and passenger suffered minor injuries.)
The Fresno Police Department car that was broadsided on the way to arrest a man who aimed a laser pointer at an FPD helicopter. Two officers were seriously injured. Photo from YourCentralValley.com.
When officers finally reached Quenga’s home, they found he was listening to police department radio traffic. He said “he could hear everything the officers were saying and knew they were looking for him and [he] had possibly hidden the laser.” Quenga claimed the laser beam came from a house behind him. He further said he worked as a security guard and knew he could lose his job for misuse of a laser.
The suspect, realizing he had been spotted, took off in his car — with the laser. However, ground officers caught Polson at the entrance to his subdivision and took him to jail, where he was charged with misusing a laser device which is a felony, and for opposing a police officer during an arrest which is a misdemeanor.
According to the Tampa Tribune, in September 2013 Polson sent an email to the newspaper saying he had been harassed for several years by law enforcement helicopters and aircraft. He said the harassment occurred daily but “made no sense” because he is “no threat to anyone.”
From ABC Action News WFTS Tampa Bay and the Tampa Tribune
From Highland Radio and the Irish Mirror
On the evening of March 9, the Federal Aviation Administration notified the New York Police Department aviation department that someone was pointing laser beams at aircraft landing and taking off from LaGuardia Airport. A helicopter was dispatched to try and “draw fire.” Nothing happened for about 20 minutes, until the helicopter flew a path similar to an aircraft landing approach. On the second pass, a laser was aimed at the helicopter.
Both pilots were hit. Said one, “You feel a strong tingle in your eyes. You have a burnt spot where you can’t see. It is very dangerous for any pilot to be blinded.”
Ground officers went to the apartment of Frank Egan, 36. His mother invited the officers inside, where they found a device labeled “Laser 303.” According to police, Egan admitted using the laser pointer. He said it was purchased for $50 in an Orlando shop while on vacation.
He was charged with assault on a police officer, felony assault, menacing a police officer, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon.
The next day, March 10, Egan told reporters that he did not aim the beam and that he was sleeping at the time of the incident.
From NBC 4 New York, the New York Post and the New York Times
UPDATED March 14 2015: Frank Egan’s roommate and brother-in-law, Elehecer Balaguer, 54, claimed that he was the one using the laser pointer. According to the New York Times, Balaguer swore an oath in New York State Supreme Court on March 13 2015 that he, not Egan, was responsible: “Frank had nothing to do with it. I was the one that did it. It was just a kid thing. It was a stupid thing to do.” Balaguer first denied aiming at aircraft, then after being asked two more times, confessed “I pointed it at the plane, yes, thinking it was a …” and his voice trailed off. He then said “But I didn’t mean to hurt anybody.” According to Egan’s lawyer, Egan never told the police he used the laser, contrary to the police statement after Egan’s arrest. From the New York Times. A related article in the New York Times published March 12 2015 was entitled “Powerful Lasers Easy to Buy, Experts Say.” The New York Post called the laser “military-grade” and said it had been purchased while on vacation in Orlando.
Elehecer Balaguer in court
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UPDATED March 17 2015: Balaguer was charged on March 16 2015 in federal court with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. This has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. FAA officials said they had to redirect traffic in and out of LaGuardia on March 9 to avoid going over the Bronx, where Balaguer and Egan lived. Balaguer’s attorney said the suspect “uses methadone every day and takes medication for bipolar disorder”, and that he was “harmless”: “It was stupidity, not venality.” From the Wall Street Journal.
UPDATED May 5 2015: Balaguer pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He could face up to five years in prison. The judge said sentencing guidelines call for between 2 and 2 1/2 years. He said sentencing of Balauger would not be routine “Given his psychiatric history, given his apparent lack of any wrongful intent, I can see one set of arguments being made; on the other hand I can see a different set of arguments because of the danger presented,” said the judge. Sentencing was scheduled for September 9 2015. According to the New York Post, Balaguer is a disabled ex-heroin dealer who has a history of schizophrenia and left school after ninth grade. From CBS New York, the New York Post, and the New York Times.
UPDATED April 19 2019: Frank Egan received a $227,500 settlement from New York City. His lawsuit said police had falsely claimed that Egan had admitted to owning the laser found during the arrest. Egan said his picture was widely spread in the media, his reputation had suffered, and his wedding and honeymoon were disrupted by the arrest. A Law Department spokesman said "…it was in the city's best interest to settle this case." From the New York Daily News.
US: (Not a laser) Distraction from selfies and maybe camera flash likely cause of fatal crash, NTSB says
Widely reported in the press was the fact that the cell phone camera’s flash function was used during an earlier portion of the flight. (The aircraft made one 6-minute flight around the traffic pattern, landed, took off again, made a left turn, stalled and spiraled into the ground.) As recorded by a second camera, a GoPro, during the 6-minute flight, the cameraphone flash was used “during the takeoff roll, initial climb, and flight in the traffic pattern.”
The NTSB did not state whether the use of the camera flash impeded the pilot’s vision. He was able to successfully complete the first, 6-minute flight despite being flashed multiple times. It was on the second takeoff that the pilot stalled, leading to the spin into terrain.
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- Flight 1211, a Boeing 767, reported a laser strike inbound at 2,500 feet while westbound seven miles east of LAX around 4:45 p.m.
- At the exact same time Flight 34, also a Boeing 767, reported a laser strike outbound at 14,000 feet while northeast bound about 12 miles northeast of LAX.
- Later in the evening, Flight 984, a Boeing 737, reported a laser strike inbound while heading west at 6,000 feet approximately 25 miles east of LAX around 10:30 p.m.
An FAA spokesperson said that from January 1 through December 19 2014, there were 101 laser strikes around Los Angeles.
From Ars Technica and NBC Los Angeles
The aircraft’s scheduled 8:30 departure for Los Angeles was delayed until the next morning.
A passenger on the plane said an announcement was made that the laser strike occurred as the plane was passing over the Siskiyou Pass just north of the California-Oregon border. Passengers were told it was an attempt “to cause laser blindness and potentially cause a crash.”
From KOBI5 News, Ashland Daily Tidings, and Ars Technica
An officer in the helicopter, deputy Christopher Marchese said the crew was searching for a suspect when the cockpit was suddenly illuminated with a “big green light”. He was illuminated directly in his right eye, and another crew member was also hit in the eye. When the beam hit again, Marchese was able to see the laser beam and follow it down to Leiva’s location. Ground officers arrested Leiva, who admitted shining his laser at the helicopter.
Jonathan Alan Leiva
From January 1 to November 14 2014, there were 317 laser/aircraft incidents in Florida. 49 of these took place in Broward County, and 18 in adjacent Palm Beach County.
From WSFN News, Aviation News via the Sun Sentinel
The HH-65C Dolphin helicopters were based in Detroit. “During both incidents the lasers appeared to track the helicopters as they moved,” said the agency.
The Coast Guard has strict rules requiring helicopters to abandon their missions if illuminated with laser light. Anyone exposed is taken off flight duty for 24 hours, has their eyes dilated and must be cleared by a doctor before flying again.
From Ars Technica and the Lansing State Journal
Damien Wade Conley was in a pickup truck on Interstate 85 on November 20 2013 when, stopped in traffic due to the accident, he repeatedly aimed a laser pointer out the front window towards the helicopters. One pilot said “When he hit us with that laser, the first thing I saw was the whole cockpit lit up green.”
Two views from WYYFF’s Sky4 helicopter, showing the beam from Conley’s vehicle being aimed close to the aircraft, and then aimed directly into the camera.
The incident happened August 4 2014.
From the Salisbury Journal
It is alleged the man targeted a Seahawk helicopter from 816 Squadron as it was returning to HMAS Albatross after a training flight about 10.30pm. The high-powered laser was pointed at the aircraft for around a minute from the car park of the man’s workplace at South Nowra.
The helicopter landed safely, with the four crew members on board treated for slight eye pain.
Police from the Shoalhaven Local Area Command interviewed the pilot and co-pilot, who provided an approximate location of the beam’s origin. Police searched the area and located the 19-year-old man.
A laser pointer was seized by police and the man was issued with a future court attendance notice and is due to appear in Nowra Local Court on November 19.
From the South Coast Register
On July 19 2014, helicopter “India 99” was trying to locate 10 people walking across rooftops. Arkadiusz Wozniewski of the London suburb of New Malden aimed a laser pen at the aircraft. This caused the search to be called off.
Wozniewski pleaded guilty in Wimbledon Magistrates Court on October 8 2014.
From the Surrey Comet
Ground police who were directed by the helicopter to the laser’s source. The boy was given a warning. Police described the laser as an “astronomy” laser used to locate objects in the sky.
From the Baltimore Sun, WFMD, and CBS Baltimore
UK: Police copter abandons search for missing North Yorkshire woman, due to 6-year-old aiming laser pen
The officers spoke to the child’s parents, telling them that shining light in pilots’ eyes is dangerous. The boy was said to have had no malicious intent.
The missing woman was later located “safe and well,” according to police quoted in an October 2 2014 news story.
Neither the rapist nor the laser perpetrator have been found, as of October 1 2014 when the NYPD made details of the incident public on their Facebook page.
From Pix11.com and the police Facebook page
In the ten weeks prior to September 26 2014, there were seven incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft; five of these led to arrests.
News reports did not directly link the misuse to the man arrested with the 107 laser pens. It also is not known if the investigation that led to the seizure was started in response to the aircraft incidents, or was separately initiated. All flights landed safely.
One of the seized pens was said to be 650 times more powerful than normal. Given that U.K. regulations prohibit laser pointers above 1 mW, the pen was likely 650 milliwatts. This is Class 4, the most hazardous laser classification, as the beam can cause eye and even skin burns.
From the Daily Echo
The incident occurred September 23 2014. The laser was pointed at the plane for around 2-4 minutes. Police are looking for the perpetrator.
Earlier in the month, on September 5, a Porter Airlines flight from Toronto was flashed with a green laser as it approached the Ottawa runway, according to CBC News.
A WestJet spokesperson said the pilots were cleared to fly and there was no permanent damage: “... there are real health repercussions for being exposed to a laser beam, so we do have a protocol in place where they will get checked out and there is also follow-ups.”
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In the new incident, the helicopter was conducting a search when it was hit numerous times at about 2:30 am. The unidentified man was arrested at his home in Meadow Springs, northeast of central Mandurah.
From the Mandurah Mail and ABC News
The incident occurred at about 1 am on June 1 2014. A DPS crew responded to a report of a medical helicopter having laser beams aimed at it, near Amarillo’s Tradewind Airport. As it searched, the DPS helicopter was struck by laser beams two or three times.
Suspects on the ground got into a van and drove away. The DPS aircraft followed them, directing ground officers who closed in. A laser pointer was seen in the van. They arrested Matthew George Dodgen, 35, and Christopher Anthony Cantrell, 33.
DPS referred the case to the FBI. The grand jury indicted on charges of aiming at an aircraft, which has a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. The men were also indicted on an “aiding and abetting” charge.
A Coast Guard helicopter flying over Arcata [California] was targeted by an individual with a laser Friday evening [September 19 2014].
The MH-65D Dolphin crew was returning from an operation in southern California when the incident occurred. The laser shined directly in the eyes of both pilots and appeared to come from Janes Road at Upper Bay Road in Arcata.
Lieutenant Josh Smith was one of the pilots. "We were at approximately 1500 feet returning to the base when a green laser shined from left to right across the cockpit, shining in both our eyes (the pilots). We tried not to look at the laser, but flying on the instruments while looking away from it (the laser) is very difficult." Coast Guard pilots often fly solely by looking at the cockpit instruments without outside visual cues, but are trained to look away from a laser targeting the aircraft to protect their eyesight. Even if not directly hit by a laser, being forced to look away from the instruments can result in the pilot literally flying blind.
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Zipf had previously been convicted in 2011, of pointing a blue laser at a Phoenix police helicopter. It is not known what fine or sentence, if any, came out of the 2011 conviction.
In June 2014 he pleaded guilty to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, a felony in the U.S. since February 2012. In addition to the prison sentence, Zipf also must undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment. He has until December 30 2014 to report to prison.
From KLAS-TV and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada. LaserPointerSafety previously reported on Zipf’s February 2014 indictment, and details of the lasing incidents, in this story.
At the home, police seized two green laser pointers, a rifle, and “several display knives.” There were no arrests as of the next day. Police said a 30-year-old man was assisting with their inquiries.
From the West Australian via Yahoo! News
WKMG-TV’s helicopter was filming a football game at Paul J. Hagerty High School with the incident occurred. A screenshot of footage from the TV helicopter shows the bright green flash as the beam is aimed directly at the camera:
A second later, as the beam is aimed away from the camera, the laser location is visible in the crowd at the end of the bleachers:
A close-up of the video footage, taken just after the laser was turned off, shows the two suspects. The bright object at lower left inside the yellow circle appears to be the laser, held in the left suspect’s right hand.
According to the station, a sheriff’s department helicopter was also hit; presumably it was responding to the WKMG illumination. Deputies told WKMG reporter Shaun Chaiyabhat that they talked to two teenaged suspects, but the deputies think the teens might have passed the laser pointer to friends in the crowd.
Chaiyabhat said “The Sheriff’s Office is taking this very seriously because they say it could be a federal crime.”
UPDATED - September 22 2014: WKMG ran a recap and short update on the story. The laser was not only pointed at the helicopters, but “players on the field were also complaining of getting flashed by the bright light.” As of the update, no arrests had been made.
On August 25 2014, a police helicopter searching for a violent offender was continually blinded by a green laser beam. The pilot took evasive action and “was under immediate distress.”
According to Moore’s lawyer, Moore had been outside with his dog, playing with the laser, when he decided to aim at the helicopter: “He didn’t think it would hit or reach the aircraft.”
When ground officers, directed by the helicopter pilot, arrived at Moore’s home, he said he was “stupid” and “an idiot” for aiming at the helicopter.
Moore faced up to three years in jail and up to AUS $36,000 maximum fine. The judge said “the risk of damage was huge” and that Moore “should be grateful this offence was dealt with in this court” [instead of jail].
From the Mandurah Mail
In August, Hunt pleaded guilty to acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, and to possession of cannabis. He was given a community order for 12 months, a supervision order, was fined £20, was ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge, and he had his laser pen and cannabis forfeited.
From the Bolton News
The incident occurred July 14 2014, when a sheriff’s helicopter was struck “numerous times” by a laser beam. Ground officers were directed to the source of the beam, where the two brothers were arrested without incident.
A trial conference was set for November 12 2014.
From Valley News
Ahmed Maher Elhelw
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As a result of the laser strikes on the commercial aircraft, air traffic controllers rerouted “a handful” of flights. This is one of the first times that LaserPointerSafety.com is aware of commercial aircraft in the U.S. being redirected to avoid laser attacks.
A spokesperson for the Tampa airport was quoted as saying ““It’s really not a big deal for us to reroute flights at night. We do it all the time for different reasons. The passengers probably wouldn’t even know.”
The aircraft was on patrol at 2:35 am, at about 1700 to 2000 feet altitude, looking for impaired drivers, when it was illuminated by a laser beam. The pilot was able to use infrared imaging to see Huffman, standing outside of a mobile home. Officers on the ground said Huffman initially denied having a laser pointer, then he suggested the pilots mistook it for a flashlight. He said he was not aware the plane was a State Patrol aircraft.
Huffman lives with his grandparents. His grandfather told Q13 Fox News that Aaron was ““playing with a toy flashlight and that’s exactly what it was — it was a toy flashlight. Just one with, what do you call it, a laser beam? Well, now I can understand it since 9/11, but I’m 60 years old, I can understand it. I think ahead. He’s 20 something years old. He don’t think ahead.”
In the comments section of a News Tribute story about Huffman’s arrest, a commenter named Heather Huffman wrote “He has not done this before the laser wasn’t even $7 to buy had no warning label and he didn’t even know it would reach that far.”
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UK: 16 and 12 week sentences for two Birmingham-area men in "persistent and determined" laser pen attack
Claudio Bruno, 48, of Bloxwich and Carl Keates, 23, of Walsall pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft. Bruno -- said to be responsible for 90 percent of the attack -- was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail. Keates was sentenced to 12 weeks.
The two had been drinking when they began to aim a laser at the police helicopter as it was tracking a stolen car. The “repeated and prolonged” attack lasted about 25 minutes, 10 of which was filmed by the helicopter. Video footage showed that both men were fully aware of what they were doing.
Bruno told arresting police that it was a joke, but then said his actions had put the helicopter in danger. He had purchased the laser about six months before to point out constellations in the night sky. Keates said he did not know if the laser would reach the helicopter.
At trial, the defender said that Bruno, in particular, was terrified at the prospect of the court case: "His family say he has not been able to eat or sleep and has wept constantly. He is extremely remorseful, not for his position but for what he did. It was stupid, foolish and reckless."
During sentencing, the judge said "This type of case is one of the most difficult that a judge has to deal with because I have before me two men of good character but each charged with a very serious offence. I accept you are both very remorseful. You had both been drinking and no doubt thought it would be a jokey thing to do but it was not and it could have had catastrophic consequences."
From the Walsall Advertiser and the Express & Star
On June 7 2014, a California Highway Patrol helicopter was responding to an incident in Oakland when the flight officer noticed two green flashes aimed at the aircraft. Ground officers found a laser pointer in Palomino’s pocket.
The helicopter had to break off a search with the Oakland Police Department, to deal with the laser incident. In an affidavit, an FBI special agent stated that “the two officers in the CHP helicopter had to divert their attention back and forth between searching for the source of the laser and providing assistance to the OPD.”
According to the Contra Costa Times, Palomino was taking a selfie video during the incident: “In the video, Palomino yelled at the helicopter pilot, ‘Look at this laser!’ A woman can be heard in the background saying, ‘Don't do that! You know you could blind ... You('re) going to go to jail if you do that. Don't do that!’”
According to SFGate, “In a recorded telephone conversation from jail, Palomino asked his mother in Spanish if she had recorded a news segment about the incident, which he described as an ‘embarrassment,’ Koh wrote [in the affidavit]. ‘Palomino’s mother replied by stating, ‘You should be embarrassed for doing dumb a– things.’ “
Palomino is free on $10,000 bond with a condition of a 6 pm curfew. The teen was released into the custody of his mother, and will be arraigned on September 5 2014.
From NBC Bay Area and SFGate
UPDATED December 2 2015 — Palomino was sentenced to five years probation, including six months of community confinement in a halfway house, 200 hours of community service, and not owning a laser pointer. He also will be required to educate people about the consequences of aiming laser pointers at aircraft. From the Contra Costa Times
From Connect MidMissouri
UPDATED September 8 2016: Rogers pleaded guilty to one felony count. Prosecutors say the pilot sustained eye strain that lasted for hours. From KSNT.com
From WA Today
From The Star
The pilot was able to identify the source location of the laser. He then landed and sought medical treatment.
Ground officers stopped a vehicle and arrested the man.
From CTV News Toronto
On August 24 2013, as a DPS helicopter flew over Garland, a green laser light illuminated the cockpit. The crew identified three persons on the ground and sent officers. When confronted, the three men did not want to identify who did it, until they were told the helicopter had video of the incident and suspects. Chavez then confessed. He was arrested and the laser pointer was confiscated as evidence.
Chavez had been arrested just a few weeks earlier, on August 3 2013, on suspicion of drunken driving. (He was passed out in a car that had crashed into a pole. He told officers he had three 12-ounce beers earlier. He could not remember what city he had started driving from. When asked if his trouble remembering was because he was drunk, Chavez reportedly said “Probably.”)
He had served a four-month sentence in Lubbock, earlier in 2013, also for drunk driving.
From the Dallas Morning News
Police are investigating.
The Deseret News quoted the president of the Utah General Aviation Association, who said he had a laser aimed at his private plane while landing near Sandy, Utah. The beam entered the cockpit several times over about 10 seconds. "When the laser came into the cockpit, I realized immediately what it was, and specifically didn't look at it," Dave Haymond said. "In fact, (I) shielded my eyes with my hand. I knew what it was and how dangerous it was … and was able to protect myself from it. But it's a bad deal."
From the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News
The area commander told the Larne Times that lasing aircraft is an offense under the Air Navigation Order as it is “highly irresponsible and dangerous”.
From the Larne Times
The pilot located the beam at the Brookstone Estate in Peel Green. Ground officers found a 13-year-old with a laser. They confiscated the laser and spoke to the youth. No charges were immediately filed, but an investigation is ongoing.
The pilot did not need or seek medical attention.
According to the chief inspector, there were five incidents “in the past couple of months.”
From the Manchester Evening News
In the first incident, around 11:30 pm, a laser beam was aimed at the cockpit of a landing plane. Police were able to find five youths on a roof in south Regina. Of the three boys and two girls, one of the boys had a laser pointer. No one was charged though police were still investigating.
In the second incident, just before 2:30 am, the laser light came from north Regina and was aimed at a plane flying over south Regina. No suspects were identified.
From CBC News Saskatchewan
Lee Gary Greenway
During his arrest, he apologized for his actions and called them “really stupid”, according to the judge at Greenway’s August 25 2014 hearing. Greenway pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft. He was released on bail pending sentencing on September 8.
From the Wakefield Express
On January 28 2014, the tactical officer onboard a police helicopter saw a laser and was able to warn the pilot, who avoided the direct beam. The laser was aimed twice more towards the aircraft. The tactical officer reported the incident as it occurred on the main flight path to Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield.
Ground officers were sent to the source of the laser light, where they found Leanne Martin and a “powerful” laser pen she had purchased on eBay. During trial, she said she had been using the laser pen to excite her dog, when she heard the helicopter. Although her boyfriend warned her not to aim at the aircraft, she opened a window and pointed the laser at the helicopter. When she realized it was a police helicopter, she stopped.
Her lawyer said “Miss Martin is full of remorse. She knows it was stupid. She did not realise how powerful the laser was and had not seen the warning sticker which says to ‘avoid eye contact.’ As soon as she realised it was a police helicopter she stopped because she knew she should not do it. She cannot believe how daft she was. This was a complete one off. She has no previous convictions. When police asked her if she understood how serious it was, she said ‘I do now.’”
The judge said it was careless and reckless behavior that could have been catastrophic.
Martin was sentenced to 12 months of community order (probation/supervision) and 120 hours unpaid work, £85 in court costs, and a £60 victim surcharge.
From the Worksop Guardian
According to a trauma doctor on board, “Fortunately for us, the pilot is highly experienced and dealt with it. But, had the laser caught anyone’s eye albeit briefly, it can lead to blindness for at least ten minutes and a loss of spatial awareness. Had we not taken action and avoided being been dazzled, it would have prevented us landing until the visual effects had settled, delaying treatment of the casualty. It has the same effect as deliberately slowing down an ambulance en-route to hospital. If we can find whoever is responsible, we will seek to have them prosecuted.”
From the Stratford Observer and BBC News England
Seventeen-year-old Daniel Castillo first pointed the laser at an aircraft coming into to land at Southwest Florida International Airport in South Fort Myers. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was sent to find the source. Castillo then aimed three times at the helicopter. Ground officers were directed to his location where he was arrested.
The youth told WZVN TV that he was playing with the laser and did not mean any harm. His uncle said that Castillo did not know it was wrong: “It’s not like it was intentional to hurt someone, he didn’t know the consequence.”
A spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Division said that laser illuminations can be “very distracting and devastating... All of our crews have been hit with lasers at one point or another. It’s just getting worse and worse.”
From WZVN ABC-7
According to Brundage’s lawyer, the teen wanted to see if the laser light could reach the CMPD helicopter. It did; Brundage told his parents and they called police. His lawyer says the youth is a “really good kid who made a really dumb decision” and is “ready to face up to” prosecution.
Smith Hayden Brundage
The FBI joined the local police department in investigating the incident. The federal agency has not decided whether to file federal charges.
According to the FAA, there were 34 laser shining incidents to date in 2014, in North Carolina; nine of these occurred in the Charlotte area.
From WFMY News 2, Time Warner Cable News and WSOC-TV
James McDonald told arresting officers that the noise had been bothering him. He apologized, saying that he did not know that pointing a laser at an aircraft was illegal.
He was charged with pointing a laser light at a pilot, which is a third-degree felony in Florida.
From the Sun Sentinel
At about 11:30 pm on April 19 2014, Peter Allan McArthur of Parmelia aimed a green laser numerous times at a police helicopter. Ground officers found McArthur with two handheld lasers; he told the officers that he aimed at the aircraft “to see what happens”.
During trial, the police prosecutor said McArthur should face a jail sentence due to the potential hazard.
According to his lawyer, McArthur’s laser misuse “could have had serious consequences but he did not intend for anything like that to happen. He did not intend danger.”
The judge let McArthur off with the $2500 fine, plus $147 in court costs and his lasers would be destroyed. She said she took into account that McArthur pleaded guilty and had a minimal record.
From In My Community
The helicopter crew was investigating an attempted burglary when they were hit “about four or five times” by a person in a car stopped at a traffic light. Parrott was charged with knowingly and willfully pointing a laser lighting device at the pilot of an aircraft, which is a third degree felony in Florida. Federal charges under the February 2012 law -- with a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $250,000 fine -- may also be filed. In addition, the state attorney’s office was considering charging the driver of the car, Steven Romano, age 55.
During the arrest, Romano’s car at right, has six police vehicles behind it.
This incident comes less than a month after an Orlando-area teen was arrested June 7 for aiming a laser at a Seminole County sheriff’s helicopter (just north of Orlando), and only two days after an Orlando-area teen was arrested June 30 for aiming a laser at an Osceola County sheriff’s helicopter (just south of Orlando).
From ClickOrlando.com and the Orlando Sentinel
UPDATED November 18 2014 - Parrott was found guilty of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States. Parrott faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 2, 2015. From an FBI press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida.
Jasiel Medina-Quintana told deputies he was playing in his backyard and did not realize it was illegal to shine a laser at an aircraft. A neighbor interviewed by WKMG said the teen shouldn’t have been arrested: “I buy them [laser pointers] for my kids all the time.... What are they going to do? Arrest every kid who has a laser pointer?” asked Joanne King.
Medina-Quintana was booked into the Osceola County jail and was later released into his mother’s custody.
This incident comes less than a month after another Orlando-area teen was arrested on June 7 for the same offense.
From the London Evening Standard
From the Moscow Times
From Yahoo News
In February 2014, Sumpter was arrested after a police helicopter was hit by a green laser beam. He told the arresting officer that he was responsible. When the pilot arrived, wearing his flight suit, Sumpter asked him, “Were you the one in the helicopter?”
From the Tampa Bay Times
Trevor Ragno of Longwood, Fl. aimed a green laser light at a Seminole County Sheriff’s Office helicopter that was on patrol. Ground officers were directed to a home where Ragno was found and arrested. He was released on $1000 bond the next morning.
Officials said there have been five incidents of lasers being pointed at pilots in Seminole County, all of which led to arrests. [The timespan of the five incidents -- during 2014 or all-time? -- was not indicated.]
ClickOrlando.com has an online news story from WKMG-TV which includes video from the helicopter of the laser attack, and of a person running away from a home. Below are two screens captured from the video.
From ClickOrlando.com. Thanks to Tony Zmorenski for bringing this to our attention.
On June 5 2014, a green laser was pointed at a Tampa police helicopter. The crew radioed the laser location to ground officers, who found Bradley Alan Steffes, 29, of Brandon, FL. He told officers he was playing with the laser and pointing it at random objects. A search of his pickup truck revealed a laser pointer and the drug items.
The 18-county Tampa division of the FBI recorded 102 laser/aircraft incidents in 2013.
From the Tampa Bay Times
UPDATED June 27 2014: Steffes was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 26 2014. From the Tampa Bay Times
There were no reports of the laser’s effect immediately available.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, “a similar 2009 lasing incident left an Ornge pilot with serious eye damage and grounded for several weeks after he was hit by a laser beam while flying at about 2,000 feet over the Gatineau Hills.”
Statistics from Transport Canada list 461 reported laser incidents in 2013 -- an increase from the 357 reported in 2012. The Air Canada Pilots’ Association has asked for criminal penalties and more government control over laser devices.
From the Ottawa Citizen
The crew of a Transaero Boeing 777-200 flying from Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport to the Egyptian resort of Hurghada alerted air traffic controllers that someone in Maykop, in the Russian republic of Adygea (in Krasnodar) was shining a laser into the cockpit. "The unidentified person tried to blind the Transareo pilots for 20 seconds as they few over Maykop at 10:12 p.m. at an altitude of 11,000 meters," an official at the air traffic control center told Interfax.
The flight was not disrupted and continued to its destination.
In the second incident, someone aimed a green laser beam into the cockpit of UTair ATR-72 turboprop as it approached the Nizhny Novgorod airport to land at 10:55 p.m.. The plane, which had taken off from Moscow's Vnukovo Airport, safely landed.
It was no immediately clear how many passengers were on the two flights. But depending on the cabin configurations, the 777-200 can carry 300 to 440 passengers and the ATR-72 carries 68 to 74 passengers.
Pilots have regularly complained about being targeted by laser pointers in Russia over the past year. No accidents have occurred, but the State Duma has approved in a first reading a bill that would toughen penalties for people convicted of pointing lasers at planes. Currently, offenders face a small fine.
From the Moscow Times
David Walter Fee, 22, was charged with aiming a powerful green laser pointer at Air 43, a CHP aircraft. The pilot suffered temporary blindness and the aircraft was forced to break away from investigating a burglary in progress. Also charged along with Fee was Andrew Zarate, 20, also of Fresno. The disposition of his case is not known.
Fee faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines when sentenced.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Fresno Office, California Highway Patrol, and Fresno Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted the case.
From the Fresno Bee and the April 10 2014 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release about the indictment of Fee and Zarate.
UPDATED August 11 2014 - Zarate pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a California Highway Patrol airplane. He was scheduled to be sentenced November 3 2014. Fee pleaded guilty to the same offense in June and was scheduled to be sentenced August 25 2014. From an August 11 2014 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release about Zarate’s guilty plea.
UPDATED September 29 2014 - Fee was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus two years of supervised release. From KMJ Now.
UPDATED November 3 2014 - Zarate was sentenced to one year in prison, plus two years of supervised release. From Ars Technica and ABC30.
Scotland: Community service for ADHD man who lased police helicopter, 8 weeks before copter crashed into pub
The incident occurred on October 1 2013. The helicopter pilot turned the craft away from the beam, to avoid the light. Other crew used infrared cameras to track the perpetrator and direct ground officers to his location. The officers found a laser pen in the possession of Grant Jones, 24, and arrested him.
The same helicopter crashed into a pub in Glasgow on November 29 2013, killing all three on board plus seven persons on the ground. There is no linkage between Jones’ laser illumination and the crash 60 days later, which was caused by both engines flaming out.
Click to read more...
The laser’s light, as seen from the NPAS helicopter
The NPAS chief superintendent said “Shining a laser pen at an aircraft not only puts the pilot and the crew in danger, but it can delay the helicopter which may result in serious injury or even the loss of life. These are stupid and reckless acts. We will deal robustly with anyone who uses lasers and puts lives at risk.... Such offences hold a potential five-year custodial sentence and/or a significant fine.... Real people’s lives are at risk. This is not some kind of computer game.”
From the Ormskirk & Skelmersdale Advertiser
Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr.
The 25-year-old faces up to five years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine if convicted.
From KEYE TV
UPDATED - July 7 2014: Ruedas entered a guilty plea in Federal court in Austin. No sentencing date has been set. Ruedas faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. From SFGate, KEYE TV and the Austin American-Statesman.
UPDATED - October 2 2014: Ruedas was sentenced to two years in prison, plus three years probation after his release. From KTBC and the Austin American-Statesman.
UPDATED - October 9 2014: Austin TV station FOX 7 obtained video from the AIR-1 helicopter, showing the Frbruary laser strike and the arrest. From MyFOXaustin.
A police representative quoted in the May 24 2014 story indicated that there have been several incidents in the past few years. He said “These green lasers which are readily available, inexpensive and extremely powerful have huge potential for damage. In my opinion there is no commercial application for them and people shouldn’t have them. It’s an offence under the Civil Aviation Act and if prosecuted individuals can face a fine and/or imprisonment up to 10 years.”
Police are “clamping down on culprits” according to an airport spokesperson.
From The Citizen
According to police, green laser light hit the cockpit window around four times, shining for several seconds each time. The crew notified ground officers who found Michael James Saavedra, 22, and Dylan James Demone, 23, in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.
Saavedra (left) and Demone leave federal court after their May 21 2014 hearing
Click to read more...
Saavedra told an officer that he aimed his laser at the helicopter. The police report said “Mr. Saavedra did not intend to harm anyone, nor was he aware it was illegal.”
On December 30 2012, an AirTran pilot reported that a green light was in his cockpit as he flew about 10 miles west of Palm Beach International Airport. A police helicopter sent to investigate was also affected by the light.
Fischer was located by ground officers, who reported that the man told them “he didn’t think it was serious and he was just being dumb.”
Michael R. Fischer
On April 18 2014, Fischer pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of pointing a laser at an aircraft. At that time, prosecutors said he could face a six-month sentence according to a story in the Sun Sentinel. It is not known why Fischer pleaded guilty on May 21 2014, although it may have been a plea bargain to further reduce his sentence.
Original arrest story, Jan 2 2013 from WPBF. Guilty plea story, May 21/22 2014 from the Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. Update information below from a phone conversation, July 31 2014.
UPDATE -- July 31 2014: Fischer told LaserPointerSafety.com that he was sentenced July 29 in Fort Lauderdale, to two years probation and 50 hours of community service. He said, “What kept me out of jail was not having a [prior criminal] background. “ Fischer described his guilty plea as part of an agreement that helped to reduce the sentence. He said aiming the laser, which he bought for $5 from Amazon.com, at an airplane was “the worst mistake of my life. Now I am a convicted felon.”
In addition, the FAA is considering civil charges against him, for interfering with a flight crew. The fine would be up to $11,000 per violation.
According to Fischer, up until his arrest, he was unaware that lasing aircraft was hazardous or illegal. He urged that laser labels, product packaging, and marketing materials should be required to warn users against aiming at aircraft. His warning for others was “Don’t think you’re not going to get caught, because if you do it you’re going to get caught.”
Finally, Fischer said “Please let people know I would like to apologize to the pilots, the airline, and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office.”
(Note: Fischer expressed similar sentiments in an interview with the Sun Sentinel, posted July 31 2014.)
About one hour later, a driver reported being blinded by a light in the same area.
Police asked anyone with information to call their Crime Stoppers line.
From 660 News
The pilot, flight instructor Jessica Ward, was teaching a student to land at Cape Fear Regional Jetport when the incident occurred. She said the laser tracked her aircraft, twice temporarily blinding her and the student. “It refracted in the bubble and lit up like a light bulb,” she told station WECT. She said “I said you know what, this is a real threat that needs to be handled.... I just thought this seemed like a bad dream. I can’t believe this is about to happen to us at this airport in this community, and sure enough, it did.”
Funk was charged with a Class H felony for pointing a laser at an aircraft. He could receive five to six months in prison. Funk had previously been convicted for offenses including felony larceny, possession of burglary tools, damage to property, violation of probation, and driving while impaired.
From WECT and State Port Pilot
UPDATED - May 11 2015: Funk pleaded guilty in federal court to the charge of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He had been out on bail and will remain free until his sentencing, scheduled for on August 3 2015. Funk could receive up to five years in prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. From StarNewsonline.com
UPDATED - November 4 2015: Funk was sentenced in federal court to five years probation and 200 hours of community service. From WNCN and PortCityDaily.com.
As a result, the pilots of the Air-1 helicopter suffered flash blindness that lasted a few minutes, causing disorientation. The pilots were ultimately able to pinpoint the origin of the beams and, with the help of patrol deputies, identified Scott as a suspect.
Sentencing for Scott is set for July 21 2014. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
On May 12 2014, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 24, was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. An FBI special agent said ““Coleman and Rodriguez demonstrated outrageous and willful disregard for the safety of aviators, Air George’s patients, and the public.”
In imposing sentence, Judge Lawrence O’Neill considered the opinion of Dr. Leon McLin, a Senior Research Optometrist for the Air Force Research Laboratory who testified at trial, that the laser pointer that Coleman used was an instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury and, indirectly, death due to a high potential for crash caused by visual interference.
Judge O'Neill found the high‑powered laser pointer was a dangerous weapon, and referring to the potential for a crash resulting from the pilots’ impaired vision stated, "I physically shudder to think of what could have happened."
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
US: UPDATED Two California men arrested for aiming laser at plane, 1 also charged with drug possession
The evening before, a pilot was temporarily disoriented by a green laser at about 9:18 pm while landing at Tehachapi Airport. The pilot reported the laser illumination to police. A Tehachapi Police Department officer arrived and was flown around the area by the pilot. The plane was again targeted. The source, a residence, was identified. The plane landed again, and police went to get a warrant to search the residence.
A few hours later, at 3:20 am, police served the search warrant. They found the laser device along with a half pound of methamphetamine worth $20,000, cash totaling $1,400, scales and drug paraphernalia, and an 8 mm Mauser rifle and ammunition.
Arrested were Daniel Roy Mahler, 47, and Mario Guillermo Manero, 52. Both were charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. In addition, Mahler was charged with possession of controlled substance for sales, and maintaining a drug house.
UPDATED April 13 2015: In February 2015, Manero pleaded no contest. [The penalty, if any, was not stated in the news story.] He was arrested again in April 2015 for possession of child pornography, found during a firearms compliance check. A search warrant was obtained and several items were seized to try and identify potential victims. From the Bakersfield Californian.
US: FBI searching for laser perpetrator after Delta pilot's vision "severely disrupted" on landing an NY LaGuardia Airport
The FBI announced on March 28 that they were searching for suspects in the Queens Boulevard area of Elmhurst, Queens, New York City. The bureau’s Joint Terrorism Task Force offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator.
From the Associated Press via MassLive.com, and Queens Chronicle. This incident was widely reported as an injury to the pilot, in press headlines such as “FBI: Laser flashed at Delta cockpit injured pilot landing airplane at New York’s LaGuardia Airport”
On January 20 2014, a National Police Air Service helicopter was at 1500 feet altitude, searching for a missing person. Gavin Hoskins was "playing" with the laser, aiming it first at rooftops and then aiming 3-4 times at the helicopter. He did not think the laser had the range to reach the aircraft, which broke off the search to track Hoskins.
According to the prosecutor, “it does not appear that the pilot on this occasion was distracted.”
When arrested, Hoskins told police that the was sorry and had been "stupid" to use the laser pen, which was still in his pocket.
The laser had been purchased in Bulgaria for his young daughter, Haskins said to police.
At trial, Hoskins admitted recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. His lawyer said “it was not a deliberate act to endanger the pilot of the helicopter.”
The judge called Hoskin's actions "stupid and potentially extremely dangerous" and noted that a number of recent helicopter crashes have resulted in "destruction and death."
Hoskins, a security guard, lost his job -- apparently due to negative publicity surrounding the case.
From BBC News and the Western Daily Press.
On March 15 2014, a helicopter flying at 6000 feet reported being targeted by a laser. The beam came from the London Road area, but the laser was not found.
On March 18 2014, an Airbus reported being flashed by a laser, as the aircraft was heading into Gatwick airport.
Police warned local residents that aiming a laser at an aircraft is a "considerable threat" as well as being illegal.
From Crowboroughlife.com and the Kent and Sussex Courier. Thanks to Stephan Butler for bringing this to our attention.
Timothy Wilson, 46, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and of narcotics paraphernalia, and resisting or delaying arrest. Patrick Florez, 45, was arrested on suspicion of stolen property and false license plate tabs.
The strike force confiscated a stolen motorcycle, quantities of methamphetamine, and narcotics-related material, paraphernalia and a scale.
No laser was found and the investigation is continuing.
From the Bakersfield Californian
Authorities did not have any additional details about the charge, or about who actually pointed the laser at the aircraft.
From the Toledo Blade
UPDATED - August 28 2014: Deal was sentenced on August 25 2014 to one month in prison followed by two years of probation, for the charge fof making a false statement or representation to a department or agency of the United States. From the Toledo Blade
Prior to this, the longest sentence anywhere in the world for a laser/aircraft incident was four years, handed down in January 2010 to Jamie Allen Downie. For more information, see the page Sentences for laser offenses and click the tags on the left side to find jail terms of 0-6 months, 7-12 months, 13-24 months, 25-36 months, 37-48 months, and over 4 years.
UPDATED June 24 2015: Rodriguez’s 14-year sentence for reckless endangerment was overturned by an appeals court, saying there was no evidence that he had harmful intent as required by the law.
Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of Rodriguez’s sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.
In addition, the government told the judge that “[s]entencing Rodriguez to a substantial prison term will send an important deterrent message that could not be more timely.”
The government stated at one point that Rodriguez should receive 20 years to life imprisonment based on its analysis, but they would be satisfied with 14 years.
Rodriguez’s lawyer countered that the guidelines had been misapplied and the sentence should be only 57 months (4 3/4 years). The lawyer contended that Rodriguez was in his backyard, playing with the laser to see how far it could go and he had no knowledge of laser/aircraft hazards.
Click to read more...
US: UPDATED - California man sentenced to 14 years for aiming 65 mW laser at Fresno police helicopter
The 14-year sentence is the longest ever imposed for lasing an aircraft, anywhere in the world. Rodriguez’s lawyer unsuccessfully argued that a term of 57 months (4 3/4 years) would be “harsh, but ... is arguably a just punishment.” The previous longest sentence was 4 years for Jamie Allen Downie, sentenced in January 2010.
Sergio Patrick Rodriguez
Federal sentencing guidelines take into account the crime itself as well as the defendant’s criminal history. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said at sentencing that Rodriguez was “a walking crime spree.” Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of the sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.
A more detailed analysis of the 14-year sentence is here.
The Rodriguez case began August 25 2012 when a helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California was illuminated by a green laser. Fresno Police Department’s Air 1 was sent to investigate.
It was repeatedly and deliberately struck by the light. The beam was traced back to Rodriguez, now 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23. Pilots from both helicopters said the laser strikes caused significant visual interference.
The laser’s power was later measured as 65 milliwatts. This is 13 times the 5 mW limit for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. This 13x power increase leads to a 3.6 times increase in the distance at which Rodriguez’s laser was a hazard (see Note 1).
The propeller plane was patrolling the northern part of Crimea when it was fired upon during daylight hours.
From The Aviationist
On November 17 2013, the helicopter was patrolling over the Boyle Heights area, which Wikipedia describes as a "working class, heavily Latino, youthful neighborhood of almost a hundred thousand residents east of Downtown Los Angeles." The aircraft was struck several times by a green laser beam that illuminated the cockpit.
The source was tracked to a home where George Sam Elali, 31, was arrested on state charges. After an investigation by the FBI and the sheriff's department, the state charges were dropped and Elali was indicted February 14 2014 by a federal grand jury.
From CBS Los Angeles
Jenny Gutierrez, 19, was captured after the pilot followed Gutierrez to her home, and reported the location to sheriff’s deputies.
Stephen Slark of Southwick was charged with shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. He will appear in court on April 1 2014.
In addition, a 27-year-old companion was arrested but later released without charge.
From The Argus
The incident occurred January 4 2014. No one was injured. Dorsett was arrested in El Paso and was charged with a violation of 18 USC 39A, aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
From WOAI, Statesman.com and a press release from U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas
UPDATED - July 31 2014: Dorsett was convicted by a federal jury. Sentencing was scheduled for October 2 2014. He could receive up to five years in federal prison. From KVIA.com.
US: UPDATED - Las Vegas area man, previously convicted of aiming lasers at helicopters, does it again six times
James David Zipf had been convicted in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011 for aiming a blue laser at police helicopters. In May 2013 he moved to Henderson, Nevada, 12 miles from Las Vegas.
The indictment stated that Zipf aimed a laser at Las Vegas Metro Police helicopters six times between January 31 and February 12 2014. In one of the attacks, the pilot was so disoriented that he landed the aircraft and ended his shift.
At a detention hearing, Zipf was ordered to remain in jail. The judge said he had endangered the helicopter crews, was a threat to the community, was not truthful to federal agents, and was using drugs.
Zipf faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each of the six counts.
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal, MyNews3 and CBS Las Vegas
UPDATED - September 24 2014: Zipf was sentenced to two years in prison. He also must undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment. A news reported noted that one of the flight officers in a February 3 2014 incident experienced a severe headache. From KLAS-TV
US: UPDATED - Ohio man pleads not guilty to lasing news helicopter; judge orders him to stay away from lasers
Vecchiarelli, 46, was accused of aiming a green laser pointer at a news helicopter that was covering a high school football game on October 11 2013. The pilot said he saw the light several times. Police found Vecchiarelli in his driveway with a police scanner and a laser pointer. They said he confessed and gave them the laser.
News reports at the time said he was arrested on a charge of interfering with a flight crew. It is not known what happened to that charge.
He is currently free on $10,000 bond.
From WFMJ.com and TribToday
UPDATED July 29 2014: Vecchiarelli pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with an aircraft, during a July 24 2014 hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. In return, a charge of obstructing official business was dropped. He will be sentenced later on the interference charge. From WFMJ.com.
UPDATED October 3 2014: Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years. From WFMJ.com.
Carl Floyd said “I was freaking out. At first, I didn't know what was going on, then they told me what was going on and I first I denied it because I was nervous. It was 100 percent accident, not intentional, to hit an aircraft or put anybody else in danger.”
The helicopter pilot said he was hit three or four times by the green laser light, and that he doesn’t believe it was an accident.
Floyd’s case will go to a grand jury, which will decide whether to indict him on federal charges with a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
A map of the Tulsa area showing recent (2013) laser incidents
From NewsOn6.com and Tulsa World
UPDATED November 13 2014 - A federal jury deadlocked in July 2014. During the trial, Floyd said he was aiming at objects such as a cell tower, a mailbox and a tree, and he did not knowingly illuminate the helicopter. Just before a second trial in November, he made a plea agreement where he pleaded guilty; saying he “knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at the flight path of a helicopter that I was aware was flying nearby.” He said he had suffered severe injuries in a July 21 2014 motorcycle accident. The prosecution agreed that in light of his medical condition, a probationary sentence be imposed. Sentencing is scheduled for February 20 2015. From the Tulsa World.
On January 26 2014, Craig Mather of Carlton (an eastern suburb of Nottingham) heard the helicopter and aimed a £20 laser pen at it. The pilot was distracted as he was attending a serious incident in Arnold, to the northwest of Carlton. Ground units were notified and went to Mather’s home.
Prosecutors said Mather told authorities that “the helicopter annoyed him, as it was always above his house, and wanted it to go away. He said he didn't know how far the laser went.”
In court, Mather admitted to the charge of directing or shining a light at a police helicopter, so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. The crime is punishable by a fine. He was also ordered to pay £85 in costs and a £30 victim surcharge.
From the Nottingham Post
On December 1 2013, Kristian Larsen aimed a blue laser “like a light sabre” from his home in central Auckland towards the aircraft which was taking off from the police helicopter base at Mechanics Bay. The laser beam led police to Larsen’s location, where he was arrested.
The 44-year-old man is charged with endangering transport.
Police said similar lasers are shown on YouTube videos as cutting through plastic and setting fire to objects. An investigation is ongoing.
From the New Zealand Herald
An FBI special agent who worked on the case said "I know a couple pilots that do have permanent injuries related to laser incidents because the intensity of the laser and the affects it has on parts on the eye."
From ABC15 and KVOA
On May 20 2013, the helicopter was sent to investigate a shooting. As it hovered over Luton, a green laser beam dazzled the crew of three, leading to evasive action by the pilot. Officers on the ground traced the beam to 53-year-old James McIvor, a PCSO with British Transport Police. (A PCSO is a civilian member of police staff who is a uniformed non-warranted officer.)
James McIvor, PCSO, British Transport Police
McIvor told officers he had been using a laser pen to attract his elderly cat that was on top of his garage.
McIvor was convicted in December 2013 of acting in a negligent manner to endanger the safety of an aircraft. He was acquitted of a more serious charge of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.
From BBC News and Wikipedia’s PCSO page
No injuries were reported in the January 29 2014 incident.
In a Dallas incident that occurred the previous week. the co-pilot of a medical helicopter was treated at a hospital after having his right eye “burned’ by a green laser.
US: Calif. man who "can't help himself from doing stupid things" sentenced to 21 months for lasing police helicopter
Clovis Man Sentenced For Aiming Laser At Sheriff Helicopter
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Monday, January 27, 2014
Docket #: 1:13-CR-108 LJO
FRESNO, Calif. — Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 23, of Clovis, was sentenced today to 21 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
Mahaffey’s sentence follows his guilty plea last November. According to court documents, Mahaffey deliberately tracked and struck Eagle 1, a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, with a powerful red laser while the aircraft was assisting ground units on a call for a domestic disturbance. As a result, the pilot was distracted by the intense light and forced to break away from the call. The pilot reported the laser strikes to Air Traffic Control at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and, with the help of the Clovis Police Department, was able to locate the source of the laser and identify Mahaffey as the suspect. In pleading guilty, Mahaffey admitted he knew it was a crime to point the laser at an aircraft but stated he, “just can’t help himself from doing stupid things.”
Click to read more...
The incident occurred in Blacon, an area in Chester (20 miles south of Liverpool) on August 11 2012. The helicopter was able to trace the laser beam back to a person in a garden, later identified as Richard James Brooks.
Sentencing of Brooks was scheduled for February 12.
After the helicopter was illuminated by the laser, the crew aimed a spotlight at a man standing alone on a hill. Over the P.A. system, the crew told the man to walk down the hill. He was detained by local security guards until police arrived.
He was identified as Edward Bebec. A small, high-intensity handheld laser was found on the hill. Bebec was charged with two felony counts of endangerment.
Michael Pruitt, 30, was heading to St. Paul University Hospital in Dallas with a patient when a laser was aimed from the area of Interstate 35 and Harry Hines Boulevard. Pruitt was struck in the right eye.
The helicopter made an unplanned landing at Dallas Love Field. The patient, Pruitt, and the flight nurse rose in an ambulance to the hospital, a distance of about 2 miles. At the hospital, Pruitt’s eye injury was examined.
A Dallas Police Department incident report says Pruitt sustained “a burn to his right eye” and was “unable to see out of it.”
A spokesman for his employer, Air Evac Lifeteam, said “Its my understanding he’s fine.” But Pruitt’s father said his son still cannot see out of his eye and has a headache: “We think his eye will be fine, but you never know until it heals. He’s been in a lot of pain.”
An FAA spokesperson said this was “the most significant injury we’ve seen in the DFW area.”
From NBCDFW.com and WFAA.com
On September 25 2013, the helicopter was called to find a missing person. The pilot was hovering at 1,200 feet over a densely populated area of Greenfield when a green laser beam targeted the aircraft. Over an eight-minute period, the aircraft was hit about ten times by the beam. The majority hit the outside of the helicopter though a video recording showed the interior illuminated for a couple of seconds.
A frame from the helicopter video of the attack. The complete video can be seen here.
While the helicopter maneuvered to avoid the laser, the missing-person search was not abandoned. No emergency or evasive action was taken, and the captain was in full control throughout the incident. However, the attack distracted the crew, caused distress and wasted search time and resources, according to the prosecutor.
The three-man crew identified the source location and directed ground officers to the home of Kevin Mark Griffiths. He pretended to be asleep and later produced the laser from a bedroom. He told police he had purchased the laser while on vacation in Spain.
Griffiths said it was a “foolish, impulsive and reckless action,” aiming at what he knew was a police helicopter.
At trial Griffiths admitted a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft or persons inside. He was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, and was fined £165 in costs.
From the Daily Post (with video) and Wales Online
From Wigan Today
Police said that 18-year-old Andrew Decker hit the Air One helicopter at least four times. Ground officers arrested Decker, a college student, with the laser still in his hand.
In a statement emailed to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Decker said he was sorry and did not realize that what he was doing was dangerous. He said a neighbor tried to warn him it was a crime but he did not hear the man due to New Year’s celebratory firecrackers going off in his neighborhood of Holly Hill, a few miles north of Daytona Beach.
Decker wrote, “I just got that new laser and wanted to see how far the light would go. I would never do anything to hurt anyone. I just want to tell the helicopter pilot how sorry I am.”
His mother, a News-Journal employee, told the paper “I think it’s pretty clear he didn’t understand the severity of the situation.”
From the Daytona Beach News-Journal
UPDATED February 11 2014: Decker’s lawyer, David Damore, negotiated a pretrial intervention deal with prosecutors. Decker will pay a fine, do community service, and apologize in writing to the helicopter pilot. Upon completion of these actions, the charges will be dismissed. Damore said “Andrew is a good kid. This young man had no idea what he was doing and just wanted to see how far the light would go.” From the Daytona Beach News-Journal
The helicopter crew led ground officers to the man’s home. He will be summonsed for causing fear with a laser or light to people in conveyances.
From the West Australian
On December 28 2013, an aircraft landing at Southwest Florida International Airport, in South Fort Myers on the west coast of Florida, reported a laser incident. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was sent to investigate. It was illuminated by a laser from a residence in Cape Coral, Fl.
Ground officers found Stephen Clyde Plock, 51, and two children at the residence. Plock initially denied knowledge of the laser but eventually admitted that he saw the plane and helicopter and aimed the laser into the sky.
He is out on bail until January 17 2014.
From Kent Online
The unnamed pilot was on approach to Newcastle International Airport. He told the Eastern Chronicle:
The weather was atrocious, with strong turbulence and crosswinds outside of the legal limits for my first officer. The aircraft was being battered by the gales and the landing conditions at the airport at the very margins required total concentration from the flight crews, and in particular, myself as the captain landing the aircraft with a large number of passengers inbound from the Mediterranean.”
He was then hit in the left eye, with a “searing pain”. He turned towards the light, looking at the source.
“My left eye was left sore and blurred but, mercifully, weather conditions eased and the landing was uneventful. On this occasion it was just a major distraction on a very difficult night when all my efforts should have been on getting the aircraft safely down.
“Had the attack happened minutes later, both eyes would have been affected and my co-pilot would have had to face the prospect of landing outside his limits, or diverting. The miscreant must have been very aware of the conditions and its only aim was to bring down the aircraft and its occupants.”
From the ChronicleLive and the Telegraph
On August 25 2012, an emergency transport helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California reported being illuminated by laser beams. The police helicopter was sent to investigate. They too were struck. Rodriguez and Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, were located and arrested.
During the three-day December 2013 trial, pilots from both helicopters said that the laser strikes caused significant visual interference. Evidence presented indicated that the laser was “13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for hand-held laser devices.”
Sentencing was scheduled for March 10 2014. The interference charge has a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The aiming charges each have a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Clovis and Fresno Police Departments, Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Assistant United States Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted the case.
From KERO ABC. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered the March 2013 indictment. The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California is here.
UPDATED March 10 2014: Rodriguez was sentenced to 14 years in prison, on the charge of interfering with an aircrew. Coleman will be sentenced May 12 2014 and could receive up to five years on the aiming charge.
UPDATED June 24 2015: Rodriguez’s 14-year sentence for reckless endangerment was overturned by an appeals court, saying there was no evidence that he had harmful intent as required by the law.
Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Assuming the article meant the laser was 13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for laser pointers, then the laser would have been 65 milliwatts. (The maximum for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. is 4.99 mW; there is no maximum for hand-held laser devices which are not marketed as pointers.) For a standard divergence of 1 milliradian, a 65 mW laser has the following hazard distances: It can be a nominal eye hazard up to 190 feet from the laser, causes flashblindness up to 890 feet away, causes interfering glare up to 4,000 feet away, and is a distraction up to 39,600 feet (7.5 miles) away.
The first pilot said the green laser was large and was concentrated on his aircraft for a prolonged period of time. A ground officer was sent to the area where the laser was reported to have been sighted. In the meantime, a second plane was hit. The officer then saw a green beam target a third plane, for about five seconds. He could not pinpoint the exact location, and the beam did not reappear.
The FAA was notified and the case is being investigated.
From the Journal Gazette
Two days later, one of the pilots’ doctor said the aviator is experiencing migraines and “short-term damage” and has been forced to take the week off. Dr. Marc Brockman of the Florida Vision Institute said there will not be long-term damage. He noted that “If this were an industrial laser, it only takes a split second [to do damage]. The doctor also said the laser perpetrator’s aim does not have to be accurate because the eye is naturally drawn to bright lights.
At around 10:40 that evening, the pilot said the aircraft was “getting a laser hit” from the ground. The laser’s path easily led back to the backyard of a home. Ground officers said Justin James Nesbitt told them he wanted to see if the laser could hit the aircraft.
Nesbitt’s bail was set at $75,000.
Justin James Nesbitt
From CBS Sacramento
Malta: UPDATED - Amateur astronomer admits aiming laser at aircraft; says it could not have caused a problem
Taking the stand in his own defense, he told the court that the AirMalta light would have hit the side or tail, but not the cockpit, based on the aircraft’s flight path. He sad that as the son of a retired air traffic controller, he was aware of traffic and flight paths.
In addition, the laser’s range was stated in a brochure as 3 km, while the aircraft was 9 km away from Camilleri’s position.
The prosecution noted that the brochure warned against aiming at aircraft as it could disrupt the flight and was illegal. The prosecutor objected to Camilleri as he was not an expert but was expressing “mere opinion”.
The judge scheduled the next hearing for February 25 2014. An independent court expert will be appointed to provide technical terms and assistance.
From Malta Today
UPDATED - June 4 2014: A web search for “David Camilleri laser” has not turned up any results. The most recent items are stories of his December 11 2013 court appearance. So the outcome of this case does not seem to be available online.
Jacob Finch of West Palm Beach, Florida, told TV news stations that he was using a green laser pointer to exercise his dog. He said “I guess the laser got over that fence and shot out.” Finch lives in the path of the airport, and was using the laser at about the same time as the reported incident, around 7 pm on December 9 2013.
Finch indicated he had no idea of the danger and would not do it again: “Oh my gosh, this possibly hurt somebody? I mean we were oblivious.... I feel horrible. It could have hurt somebody. No more lasers.”
As of December 14, there were no news reports indicating any arrests or other progress in the case from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
From WPTV.com, WWLP.com and WFLX.com
US: UPDATED - News reports quote helicopter pilot who suffered two burned corneas from 1995 laser exposure
Reporter Jim Avila: “We also spoke to helicopter pilot Steve Robertson who suffered two burned corneas from a laser attack.”
Robertson: “You take the vision out from a pilot, that aircraft’s ability to land is greatly compromised.”
A Google search turned up three stories about Robertson’s injury. A November 2010 Glendale News-Press article included the following:
Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson is all too familiar with the consequences of pointing a laser at a helicopter.
Robertson's corneas were severely burned 15 years ago when his police helicopter was flashed with lasers. He said it felt similar to being hit by a baseball bat.
"It's no different than pointing a gun or shooting at a police officer," he said. "It could have the same outcome."
Robertson said he avoided crashing because he was flying with another pilot.
After being struck by the laser, Robertson was taken to a nearby hospital, where doctors scraped his corneas. He returned to work four days later and still has 20/20 vision, he said.
Robertson's injury was the last laser-related injury to the department's helicopter pilots.
A January 2011 NPR report also has information about the incident and injury:
Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson remembers the first time he encountered a laser strike. He says his helicopter was hit by a powerful beam of green light one night while he was on patrol.
"It immediately [lit] up the whole cockpit and it hit both of my eyes and burned both of my corneas," says the veteran pilot. "Instantly, I was blinded. It felt like I was hit in the face with a baseball bat — just an intense, burning pain."
Robertson was momentarily incapacitated and would have crashed if his co-pilot hadn't been able to land the chopper. He recovered from his injuries. But since that incident back in the mid '90s, Robertson says he and his fellow police pilots in Glendale have been targeted dozens of times by people shining cheap, easy-to-buy lasers.
Sources: Dec. 10 2013 video report from ABC News. Nov. 2010 story from the Glendale News-Press. Jan. 2011 story from NPR. Not quoted above is a Feb. 2013 ABC News story; it may have used the same interview clip as the Dec. 2013 ABC News story.
UPDATED JUNE 20 2014: Another story referencing Robertson’s claim of two burned corneas is from CBS Los Angeles on June 19 2014.
The incident happened at about 7 pm, while JetBlue flight 521 was on approach to Palm Beach International Airport. Information from the sheriff’s office said that at 1,700 feet the pilot saw a very bright, constant green laser enter the windscreen. He believed he was intentionally tracked. He had to shield his eyes to continue trying to land the plane.
The sheriff’s office said “Thankfully they were able to land the jet safely.” The beam was thought to be from the northeast corner of two roads, but the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit did not come up with anything.
Click to read more...
The crew was able to use video equipment to trace the source of the laser, to a home in St. Paul’s Cray. The man was arrested and admitted using the laser.
He was given a police caution for endangering the safety of an aircraft.
From The Guardian
While early reports indicated there may have been an engine malfunction, the paper wrote “... there were also fears the horrific accident could have been caused by a powerful green laser beam from a pen-like device shone into the eyes of the pilot – or even a firearm. There have been an increasing number of near-misses caused by the blinding laser devices in recent months.”
No witnesses or other evidence have thus far emerged to implicate the aiming of lasers at the aircraft as a contributing factor. The Daily Mail said Police Scotland investigators “will ‘retain an open mind.’”
From a December 1 article in the Daily Mail, updated 2:24 EST on Dec. 2.
LaserPointerSafety.com has a selected list of laser/aircraft incidents in Scotland and in the U.K. Additional incidents, in other countries and sorted by various keywords, can be found by clicking the blue category and tag links in the News Index section on the left-hand side of the white part of this page.
UPDATED - December 3 2013: An article in the Scotsman, speculating on causes of the crash, includes this quote: “Charles Newport, consultant for Aviation Network Associates, said: ‘Quite possibly it could be pilot error, that’s the only other factor I can think of. The aircraft could have been flying too low and the pilot could have become disorientated. He could have been blinded by a laser. To me, it seems to be a catastrophe of some sort, unless the pilot had a heart attack. Until they look at the body and carry out pathology tests, and look at the aircraft, there’s little you can do apart from speculate.’”
UPDATED - February 14 2014: The Air Accidents Investigation Branch released a Special Bulletin, stating the accident occurred when both engines flamed out. One of the fuel tanks was empty and the other had 0.4 kg of fuel left in it. From a Wikipedia article about the crash
UPDATED - June 2 2014: An Edinburgh man was sentenced to 240 hours of community service for aiming his green laser pen at the police helicopter on October 1 2013. There is no link between that incident, and the same helicopter crashing into the pub on November 29 2013.
From the New Zealand Herald
UPDATE May 30 2014: Kristian Larsen was sentenced on May 30 to alcohol treatment, 100 hours of community service, and 12 months probation after being convicted of endangering transport. Police said the pilot was momentarily blinded and had a headache the day after the December 1 2013 lasing. The judge called Larsen’s actions a “drunken escapade.” Larsen said he regretted his actions: “We all make mistakes, and this was mine to make.” From the New Zealand Herald
The perpetrator was not located.
This was the fifth lasing thus far in 2013 for aircraft stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.
The helicopter crew was on a training exercise so it was able to turn around and identify the laser’s location. Ground officers arrested the unnamed man. He was charged with endangering an aircraft.
From the Bath Chronicle and This Is Wiltshire
The helicopter crew had been called to assist with a police operation at a party in Cabramatta, a suburb about 30 miles from Sydney, when about 11pm, the pilot reported a laser beam was being directed at the aircraft. Polair was able to direct Cabramatta police to a unit block in Lansdowne Road, Canley Vale, where they arrested the man and seized a laser pointer.
The man, from Canley Vale, was taken to Cabramatta Police Station where he was charged with use prohibited weapon and act to threaten safety of an aircraft. He was granted conditional bail to appear in Liverpool Local Court on 18 December 2013.
From a New South Wales Police Force press release
Mohammed Arif Riaz pleaded guilty to aiming at the aircraft. In June 2013 he was sentenced to eight months in prison, in Birmingham Crown Court.
The Bar Standards Board, acting on November 13 2013, also found Riaz had failed to declare criminal convictions that occurred in 2004. The Board said he acted with “astonishing recklessness” and “conduct discreditable to a barrister.”
From the Express and Star
Michael Rademacher, a traveling maintenance man, had purchased the blue laser and used it to etch his initials on his work tools. On the night of March 21 2013, he was bored and decided to aim it at the police helicopter. One pilot said it was the brightest he had seen pointed at him. After regaining their bearings, the pilots identified the source of the beam and notified ground officers. Rademacher initially said he was not involved but he confessed after officers armed with a search warrant found his laser.
In September 2013, Rademacher pleaded guilty to one felony count of possession of criminal tools. As part of the plea bargain, the more serious charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft was dropped.
If Rademacher violates probation, he will be imprisoned for 12 months. Rademacher also lost his job as a maintenance man due to his arrest and plea.
From the Columbus Dispatch
When Ron Tubbs failed to surface from his dive off Kaena Point, Oahu, his dive partner contacted the Honolulu Fire Department. A helicopter was sent to search; first from the Fire Department and later a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.
As the skies grew dark, Tubbs saw one or both helicopters but they were searching too close to shore. He pulled out a green laser pointer and aimed in the direction of the aircraft. (News stories are not clear as to which helicopter, or perhaps both, Tubbs aimed at.)
Tubbs later said, “When it got dark I think they finally realized they saw the beam of the laser way off in the distance and [I] took care not shine it in their eyes or anything, but in their direction and it reflects off the moisture in the air, so it makes a pretty big beam.”
Ron Tubbs, diver rescued by aiming laser at helicopter to get its attention
Tubbs demonstrates the laser
The laser worked to get the aircrews’ attention. Tubbs was rescued by the Coast Guard helicopter after about four hours in the water, and was taken to a decompression chamber.
Coast Guard Lt. Chris McAndrew said “With how dark it was last night, it would have been impossible to see him unless we were right on top of him, knew exactly where he was. The way were able to find him so quickly was because he had some kind of signaling device.”
From Hawaii News Now, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and the Huffington Post
UPDATED February 11 2014: Ron Tubbs wrote to LaserPointerSafety.com, to give advice for anyone who might use a laser to attract rescuers:
“The green laser saved my life. The failure of my other safety gear put me in a very serious position. My physical condition was failing quickly. I was vomiting when they picked me up from over four miles from the search area. Any delay due to the use of my laser to get help was very serious.
“My life was depending on the Coast Guard and Fire Department rescuers. To hurt those who are saving other people's lives with a by shining a laser at them is very serious and could have cost me my life.
“The Coast Guard pilot who saved my life reported to me that the green laser and/or any LED light is not seen with their night vision goggles. Three of the four crew were wearing those goggles.
“I will never scuba dive without my green laser again and have it as a safety device. Even so because night vision goggles do not see LED light I would suggest a nice expensive strobe and very bright flashlight (not LED) too or flares as the main signal device in addition to the laser. Also the Fire Department helicopter would not go near a laser as they have only have one pilot and a glass helicopter floor.
“To shine a laser towards a helicopter could actually cause the rescue to be delayed. Also shining the laser right into their eyes could blind the ones you need to rescue you so be very careful if you do use one to get help. Do not put those trying to rescue you at risk too. Shining in their direction and not at them will work well enough.
“Thanks to those who saved my life. Please all do not put them at risk further by shining a laser at them! “
Officers on the ground found a teenage suspect who admitted pointing the laser at the helicopter. They arrested Joey Martin, 19, and charged him with illumination of aircraft by intense light.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: This is the second story in October 2013 where law enforcement flew special helicopter missions to draw out a laser perpetrator. The other case involved a complex, multi-agency supervision of a suspect in Portland, Oregon. This could be a coincidence -- such missions probably have been flown in the past. But it may also indicate that law enforcement is becoming more proactive and determined to locate and arrest perpetrators.
Stephen Francis Bukucs, who worked as a private security guard
An AP report said Bukucs pleaded not guilty. He told a judge that he pointed at aircraft over 25 times “for excitement, for thrills”. He would listen to the resulting law enforcement response on a police scanner.
The judge ordered a mental health evaluation for Bukucs, who has no prior criminal record.
UPDATED October 25 2013: Bukucs was identified through sophisticated surveillance coordinated by the FBI, according to a search warrant application detailing the operation. Begun in August 2013, it involved the use of video-equipped aircraft to identify the laser source, secret cameras installed to monitor Bukucs’ apartment, and physical surveillance by Special Agents. An account of the operation is here.
UPDATED March 17 2015: Bukucs was sentenced to six months in federal prison on March 16 2015, with an additional three years probation after his release. Bukucs had pleaded guilty on July 15 2014 to aiming at two commercial airliner flights. Bukucs confessed to the FBI that, over several months, he had targeted up to 25 aircraft and that he did so for entertainment and as a “cat-and-mouse” game with the police who pursued him. According to the U.S. District Attorney, the laser beam Bukucs had was a high-powered version, not the type used in an office presentation.
His arrest occurred after intense air and ground surveillance by FBI agents and police officers. A task force involving the FBI, Portland police, Port of Portland police and other agencies, flew two airplanes as decoys in August 2013 to try and draw out the perpetrator. Investigators reported over 100 laser strikes from the vicinity of defendant’s apartment in 2013.
Prosecutors sought a two year sentence. The judge granted leniency (six months) because Bukucs was suffering from mental illness. His girlfriend had died from a seizure, leading him to abuse prescription painkillers and to deliberately target aircraft with the laser pointer. In court, Bukucs apologized and said he was ashamed. He knew the laser could annoy pilots but denied he had malicious intent: “I was just being stupid. I look back now and I'm so embarrassed by my actions." From a March 17 2015 FBI press release (reprinted below), a July 15 2014 Oregonian news story, a March 16 2015 Oregonian news story, and an AP report in the Greenfield Reporter.
At about 10 pm, the Roseville Police received reports of a green laser being aimed at vehicles. As officers were responding, the CHP reported a laser pointed at them.
From the Celebrity Examiner
At 7:35 pm on October 15 2013, a Shuttle America (Delta Connection) airplane was on final approach, six miles from the runway, when the cockpit was lit up by green laser light. The crew said the laser source was west of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx (green marker in the map below)
At 10:37 pm the same day, a private aircraft two miles southwest of LaGuardia reported a green laser. The laser source was near the intersection of Broadway and Steinway Streets in Queens (red marker).
The two locations are about 7 miles apart directly or 11 miles by roadway; driving between the two sites would take about 20 minutes.
Click to read more...
No one on either aircraft was injured by the laser beam, according to the FBI.
There were 54 reported laser incidents involving LaGuardia thus far in 2013, with 18 reports at Newark International Airport and 17 reports involving John F. Kennedy International Airport.
From the Associated Press via Global News and ABC News, and from the Daily Mail. Click the “Read More…” link for the FBI press release.
The FBI was notified. The unnamed man was charged on October 17 2013 with interfering with a flight crew, which is a second-degree felony.
Hubbard is about 5 miles northeast of Youngstown, Ohio.
From the Youngstown News
UPDATED February 20 2014: The man, Nicholas Vecchiarelli, pleaded not guilty to obstructing official business. (News accounts did not say what happened to the charge of interfering with a flight crew.) He was ordered by a judge to stay away from lasers. From WFMJ.com.
UPDATED July 29 2014: Vecchiarelli pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with an aircraft, during a July 24 2014 hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. In return, a charge of obstructing official business was dropped. He will be sentenced later on the interference charge. From WFMJ.com.
UPDATED October 3 2014: Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years. From WFMJ.com.
Henry Luther Cole Jr. was found parked near a seawall. He was charged with violating a restraining order, menacing, and disorderly conduct. Bail was set at $40,000. The case was referred to the Coast Guard Investigative Service, which is looking into possible federal charges.
Depoe Bay is on the Oregon coast, about 80 miles southwest of Portland. It promotes its six-acre harbor as the “world’s smallest”, according to its Wikipedia entry.
From the Statesman Journal and a news release from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office
Yesenia Lisabeth Diaz
Police had received an emergency call stating that someone was pointing a laser directly at an aircraft. Brownsville police went to the address and found Yesenia Lisabeth Diaz, who admitted that she aimed at the helicopter but “did not think that it would reach that far.” She was arrested and charged with a Class C misdemeanor.
Ireland: Belfast man's laser could have caused "catastrophic and fatal" helicopter crash at 2011 MTV European Music Awards, judge rules
The helicopter had been patrolling the crowd outside Odyssey Arena when Aaron McCrory aimed his laser pen at the aircraft. According to the prosecutor, McCrory had targeted the helicopter on several occasions. When questioned, McCrory first blamed children for aiming the laser, then admitted he had done it but handed over a different laser from the one used to hit the aircraft.
McCrory’s defense lawyer said the act was not done deliberately or out of animosity, but he was “messing about and that was reckless.”
At sentencing on October 7 2013, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said McCrory was “foolish and unthinking…. If the pilot had been blinded, even momentarily, the result for all onboard could have been catastrophic and fatal, and given where the aircraft was, the consequences for those on the ground, you must appreciate, could have been unimaginable in its severity.”
Performers inside the Odyssey Arena included Coldplay, LMFAO, Bruno Mars, Jessie J, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Snow Patrol, Justin Bieber, David Guetta, Adam Lambert, and Queen.
A 20-year-old man from Preston was charged with interfering with conduct endangering life and possessing a prohibited weapon. An 18-year-old man from Coburg will be charged on summons with possessing a prohibited weapon. The other two men were released without charges.
From ABC News
In court in early October, David Camilleri of Rabat was described as a “semi-professional astronomer” who was aiming at stars. He said airplanes were not his target. Camilleri’s lawyer said the case was “being blown out of proportion.” He argued that if lasers were capable of bringing down aircraft, terrorists would use them to cause crashes. He also noted that footballer Lionel Messi was able to score despite having 10 lasers pointed at him during a match.
The trial is ongoing as of October 4 2013, so the outcome is not yet known.
From the Malta Independent
From the Herald-Sun and Sky News
The helicopter had been conducting a training exercise. The laser light went in the pilots’ eyes and disoriented them. The pilot thought he was under attack. In a statement to the court, he wrote: “My first thought was that we would soon hear and feel the impact of bullets hitting the helicopter. At our altitude we had no way of knowing it was a laser pointer, not a weapon…. Why someone would choose to target any aircraft, much less one performing critical work for the public is beyond my understanding.”
From The Monitor. An press release about the sentence, issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas on September 25 2013, is here. The original LaserPointerSafety.com report of the March 7 2013 incident is here.
The name of the suspect was not immediately provided.
From U-T San Diego and CBS8.com
UPDATED September 19 2013: The man arrested was identified as Abel Becerril. A news story from ABC 10 includes video from the ABLE helicopter. There were two men in a parking lot, who hit the helicopter more than seven times. They then separately ran away, tossing the laser pointer during their run. Becerril will be charged with a felony. According to San Diego police, laserings of their helicopter happen “several times a week.” From ABC 10news.com (story, video and still photo shown below).
The teen admitted to ground officers that he had lased the aircraft. His laser pointer was confiscated and he was handed over to his parents. He faces an investigation for “a serious intervention into the air.”
An airport spokesperson said that there were 27 laser incidents in Berlin during 2012, and 261 in all of Germany.
From BZ-Berlin (original German text and Google-translated English text) and T-Online (original German text and Google-translated English text)
These are the two most recent Edmonton incidents:
- On September 6 2013, the city police Air-1 helicopter was repeatedly hit by a laser in the west Edmonton area. Two teens were arrested, a 17-year-old male and a 15-year-old female; charges are pending.
- On September 7 2013, multiple arrests were made after Air-1 was hit for several minutes in north Edmonton. Three males, aged 18, 19 and 20, were charged with assault with a weapon, possession of an offensive weapon, endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight, and creating a hazard to aviation safety.
During the press event, police said that users ignore warnings that come with lasers, that they often don’t realize or understand the hazard, that a ban on lasers is not the answer, and that their pilots do fly with laser protective eyewear. Details are at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.
From the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun. Thanks to Keith Murland for bringing this to our attention.
He apologized and said he did not know it was illegal to point a laser at the helicopter.
Fifteen minutes later, the 105 passengers and five crew members on the Boeing 737 landed in Spokane. Emergency services came on board and did not find any fire, heat or smoke but did find the burn holes.
Alex Philip Langloys Miller of Minneapolis was arrested by FBI agents and was charged with willful damage to an aircraft. He was released on $10,000 bond.
From the Telegraph, the Spokesman-Review and the Aviation Herald. A photo of the airplane involved, Sun Country Airlines registration number N716SY, is here.
UPDATED October 22 2013: The Island Guardian published more details about the incident. The smoke was first smelled by a passenger who had previously worked as a flight attendant. She notified a crew member. In looking for the source, they saw “a small bright blue light for a moment under one of the seats.” Another passenger thought they saw a person holding a laser between his legs. The suspicious person went to the restroom and returned. The plane made an emergency diversion to Spokane. After landing, a “greeting committee of police, airline officials and the FBI” found burn holes in the seat in front of the suspicious passenger, and found two lasers in the bathroom trash. From a September 13 2013 article in the Island Guardian.
In addition to the laser charge, Godinez was also arrested for drug possession and for disobeying a court order. Bail was set at $25,000.
Mariano Angel Godinez
From PE Bloggers
The Lexington, Kentucky man was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser.
French avoided federal criminal prosecution (with a potential penalty of up to 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 fine) by pleading guilty in state court. He still may face civil fines imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
From Lex18.com and Kentucky.com. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story of his August 13 2013 arrest is here.
At the same time, several commercial aircraft in the same area reported being hit.
The helicopter directed ground officers to a property in Koondoola. They seized a laser pointer and charged a 36-year-old man with causing fear with laser or light to people in conveyances.
From 7 News and the Herald Sun
Brace told police he wanted to see how far the laser pen could reach, and that he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. In sentencing Brace, the judge said: "I regret that the offense you are charged with can only be punished with a fine, many people will feel that is inadequate."
Click to read more...
On August 3 2013, a police helicopter was conducting a search in the Perth suburb of Woodvale when it was hit a number of times by a bright green laser light. The pilot had “immediate distress” and took evasive action. Ground officers arrested Manning at his home in Woodvale, and seized the laser. He was later found guilty in Joondalup magistrates court.
From WAtoday.com.au: Original Aug 3 incident; Sept 5 fine
Ground officers found the four in a midtown apartment complex. Two men, Peter Ospitale, 28, and Paul Word, 31, were arrested for investigation of endangerment. Two women, Mary Grace and Marci Gomez, both 28, were arrested for investigation of obstructing government operations.
L-R: Peter Ospitale, Paul Word
L-R: Mary Grace, Marci Gomez
WTVR quoted a nearby resident as saying she heard the crash around 2:30 am, but there were no police on the scene until around 7 am. The road was closed until 2:30 pm while police investigated. The resident said there had been four fatal crashes on the road near her home in the past few years.
Matthew L. Farr
Farr had been charged with one misdemeanor count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft by aiming a green laser beam at a Virginia State Police Cessna 182 patrol aircraft. The pilot had temporary pain, according to a police spokesperson. Farr’s court date had been set for later in September 2013.
From WRIC, WTVR, NBC12.com, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The original LaserPointerSafety.com item about Farr’s July arrest is here.
The pilot of the Tupolev Tu-204 jet, bound from the city of Krasnodar in south Russia to Moscow, said he was blinded by the beam as the plane was approaching Vnukovo Airport. The plane landed normally; all 220 passengers and 8 crew were unhurt. An investigation is underway.
A similar illumination occurred on August 24 2013, to an airplane on approach to Pulkovo-1 airport in St. Petersburg, according to a UPI report.
Click to read more...
From BBC News Tyne and Wear
UK: Couple found in bed, having aimed laser beam at search helicopter, then hiding laser pen under a mattress
On August 27 2013, they both pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot. Additionally, Gilbert pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. There is no prison term available for the offenses, only fines. They were fined a total of £305 (USD $473): a fine of £100 each, court costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of £20.
Click to read more...
UPDATED August 26 2013: WKYT interviewed the helicopter pilot, Sgt. Scott May. He told the station he was “shocked” when he heard the laser was attached to a loaded 9mm pistol. He said “When you combine the two elements of laser and gun, it’s quite alarming to us…. Now, the next time this happens, we’ve got to step back and say, ‘Is there a gun attached to this laser.’ “ From WKYT
UPDATED September 10 2013: French pleaded guilty on September 4 2013. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser. Additional details are here.
A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said this was the first incident he had heard of in “a long time” in the area.
From the Maidenhead Advertiser
From the Tribune
From WWMT Newschannel 3 and MLive. A video news report is at WOODTV.com.
A Norfolk police spokeswoman said “He has received a caution for recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or a person in an aircraft.”
From the Norwich Evening News 24
One neighbor interviewed said a man had aimed a “bright blue light” at her children. A woman in the police-targeted house said her son-in-law was contacted by police but could not say if he was charged. She did say that police said they would turn the case over to the FBI.
The house is located about 21 miles southwest of Denver International Airport.
According to the FAA, there were 32 Denver-area laser/aircraft incidents during 2012, compared with 41 from January 1 to August 15 2013.
From Fox31 Denver
The first incident occurred shortly after midnight, when a laser pointer beam hit the cockpit of an Astana-bound airliner. The second took place less than an hour later, targeting a Moscow-London flight shortly after take-off, the Interior Ministry’s Transport Department said in a statement. “No one was harmed in either incident,” the department said.
The incidents are the latest in a string of similar attacks, with transport police reporting at least five aircraft being targeted by laser pointers in Moscow and St. Petersburg in the previous week alone.
After a series of incidents involving lasers near airports in 2011, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, a bill was introduced in the State Duma to punish violators with jail terms of up to seven years in prison. The Duma plans to look again at the bill in the fall 2013 session.
From RIA Novosti. See also this August 13 2013 story from Pravda, “Laser attacks against aircraft in Russia continue”
Feliciano was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe, and "related offenses." He could also face federal charges.
This comes four days after 20-year-old Luis Martinez was arrested for a similar type of police helicopter illumination.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, at 9:20 pm the helicopter was about 10 miles south of Newark Liberty International Airport when it was illuminated with a green and white laser at 1,600 feet.
About a half hour later, a Boeing 737 and an Embraer 135 were targeted with a green laser while on final approach to Newark Liberty airport. They were at an altitude of 3,000 feet, one mile east of Teterboro Airport.
The two incidents are probably unrelated, since Teterboro Airport is about 13 miles north-northeast of Newark Liberty, and the helicopter was 10 miles south of Newark Liberty.
From The Republic
Ground units arrested Luis Martinez, 20 and an unnamed other person. Martinez was charged with aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person. He also could be charged on federal counts.
From the Daily Telegraph and WA Today
According to the Civil Aviation Authority, there have been over 220 laser incidents in the West Midlands "in the last two years", as of July 3 2013.
Arrest report from the Birmingham Mail and West Midlands Police; CAA statistics from an earlier Birmingham Mail article
A Calgary police officer holds up protective glasses of the type used by air crews to protect from laser pointers and other bright lights
Click to read more...
During the incident, the pilot put on protective eyewear specifically designed for laser incidents. The tactical flight officer was said to have “extreme anxiety” and was temporarily flashblinded during the incident. Afterwards he had “spotty blindness and a minor headache.” Police said the Class 3 laser was capable of causing permanent blindness and burning skin.
The pilot continued to fly in the area, to locate the laser, and was illuminated again. Farr was arrested by officers on the ground after a search of about 45 minutes.
Matthew L. Farr
Police said the laser was “ten times more powerful than the average store bought device.” [Assuming store laser pointers are below the FDA limit of 5 mW, that would put Farr’s laser at 50 mW. The beam from such a laser would cause visual interference at distances 3.16 times greater than a 5 mW pointer.]
WTVR spoke to Farr, who admitted shining the laser “only briefly” and said he was surprised “when the cavalry arrived” at his home.
If convicted on the misdemeanor, Farr could face up to a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Federal charges could also be filed.
From NBC12.com, WTVR CBS 6, and the Washington Post
UPDATED September 3 2013: Farr died in an automobile accident at around 2:30 am on September 2 2013. His SUV went off the road and hit a tree on a road near his home. More information is here.
A video taken from the helicopter is at the York Region link.
On July 25 2013 Gonzalez pleaded guilty in federal court to intentionally aiming his laser at the two aircraft. He could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at his sentencing, scheduled for December 2013.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California, Gonzalez is the second person prosecuted by their office for violating the Feb. 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim at or near the path of an aircraft. (The first was Adam Gardenhire, sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in March 2013.)
From the Los Angeles Times
A green laser beam was aimed at Dallas Police Department’s Air One at least four times over 10 minutes. The beam led back to Santodomingo’s house, where ground officers arrested him. The 22-year-old admitted to aiming at the helicopter, saying he wanted to see how far it would go.
“This young man’s conduct was extraordinarily dangerous and could have had disastrous consequences, which was reflected in the court’s sentence today,” said U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldana in a news release.
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and DallasNews. A video of the incident is available here. LaserPointerSafety.com’s original account of Santodomingo’s February 28 2013 guilty plea is here.
UPDATED January 28 2014 -- Krzysztofiak pleaded guilty on Jan 27 2014 to one count of aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter, a felony charge. He will be sentenced on May 6 2014. From Vindy.com
UPDATED August 26 2016 — Krzysztofiak was sentenced to three years probation, nine months home monitoring, and 200 hours of community service. He also was required to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing, and to be in a detoxification program. However, on August 24 2016, Krzysztofiak was sentenced to two years in federal prison for violating his probation. The nature of the violation was not listed in court records. From WFMJ.COM
Click to read more...
The sentencing came a little over one year after the July 11 2012 lasings in which Smith -- 29 at the time -- aimed a red laser pointer at a Southwest Airlines aircraft, and subsequently six or seven times at an Omaha police department helicopter that was trying to find the perpetrator. The conviction and sentence appear to be for the helicopter incident only.
In addition, Omaha.com reported that Smith had previously been fined $9,000 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
For the July 11 2012 incident, he could have received a five-year sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.
More information is in our stories on the original search for Smith and on his April 24 2013 conviction.
From KETV, WOWT News and Omaha.com. Thanks to Jack Dunn, Greg Makhov and John Neff for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATED June 27 2014 - A federal appeals court upheld the two-year sentence. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Michael Smith’s assertion that he didn’t believe the laser would reach the aircraft. The court said the February 14 2012 federal law doesn’t require prosecutors to show that he intended to hit the aircraft. From The Republic.
From the New South Wales Police Force and News.com.au
US: UPDATED - Pilot of crashed 777 first says he was blinded by a light; then retracts any vision effects
During a press conference on July 10, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board revealed the pilot’s statement. Deborah Hersman was asked specifically if it could have been a laser pointed from the ground. She replied “We really don’t know at this point what it could have been. We need to look into it. We need to understand what he’s talking about. We may need to follow up with him.”
Hersman described the flash as only “a temporary issue”, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
From USA Today (initial story; story about laser hazards), SFGate, and ABC News.
UPDATED July 11 2013: NTSB chair Deborah Hersman gave additional details indicating that the light was not a laser and did not interfere with the pilot’s vision.
Click to read more...
Complete coverage, including more photos and videos, is in this LaserPointerSafety.com story in the “Statistics, laws, all other news” section.
Brian Alan Hart
The helicopter was on routine patrol over Fort Pierce when someone in a black pickup truck pointed a green laser beam at the aircraft, twice. Ground deputies arrested front seat passenger Brian Alan Hart, who had a green laser pointer in his boot. The arresting officer told hard the light could have caused a crash. Hart apologized and said that “he didn’t understand the magnitude of what he had done.”
A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said laser incidents “happen about once a month.”
The “A” marks the location of the incident.
Ryan Paul Lucas
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department was searching for two missing boaters at around 11 pm. The pilot and observer said a green laser light blinded them three times. They were able to locate the source, a vacation rental property.
Deputies entered the house where Ryan Paul Lucas gave them the laser. The Sheriff’s Department quoted Lucas as telling the deputies that he “messed up and should not have shined the light at the helicopter.” Lucas was arrested and booked. One report said Lucas was 20 years old; another said he was 21.
The missing boaters were safety located, though it is not known whether they were found by the helicopter crew.
The suspect’s arrest location, marked “A”, is about 7-8 miles from theme parks at Walt Disney World
However, at 3:30 am, a caller told police that juvenile males -- one with a laser pointer -- had knocked on his door and then run away. The caller’s location was about a mile from the original laser incident search area.
Police responding to the call found the 11-year-old and the laser pointer nearby. He was booked and then later released to his mother.
From the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska Radio Network
Unusually, the laser illumination was said to have taken place at noon, according toThe Star.
Crew on the helicopter directed ground officers to a parking lot where Richard McIntosh was arrested. His green Class IIIB laser was seized by police.
From The Star and 680 News
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Although The Star stated the incident took place at noon, this could be a misreading of the time on the police report. We have seen other stories where one news outlet said an incident occurred during daytime while others reported (correctly) that the time was, for example, 12:45 AM and not 12:45 PM.
Arrollado’s location, on an apartment balcony in the city of La Mesa, was identified by officers using an onboard forward-looking infrared camera. They called in the La Mesa police. Arrollado admitted shining a 20 milliwatt laser at the helicopter and was arrested.
From ABC 10 News
The first incident occurred at the red square location, the second incident occurred two hours and 15 miles away at the green triangle location.
UPDATE May 30 2013 - An arrest was made in the second incident. Ralph Rubi, Jr., 37, of Phoenix was arrested on three charges of endangerment. Police said they found a laser device in his home, and that Rubi was a suspect in a previous incident involving a helicopter landing at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. From RTT News, AZfamily.com, and CBS 5.
The incident happened March 21 2013, when officers in the helicopter were hit by the bright blue beam. They were startled but were able to regain their composure and located the source as Rademacher’s home. Ground officers searched the home and recovered a “high-powered laser.”
From 10TV.com and the Columbus Dispatch
On December 28 2012, two commercial aircraft reported being illuminated by laser beams. They notified police, who sent a helicopter to investigate. A laser beam was aimed at the helicopter up to 30 times over a five minute period. The beam was traced to the Ormeau home of Jason Gavin, 38. The laser was found, hidden, during a search. It was confiscated by police. (Gavin later was convicted of a lesser charge of possessing a restricted item.)
Gavin pleaded guilty to the charge of threatening safety. During sentencing the judge said the plea showed that Gavin had taken personal responsibility for his actions. But past charges of careless driving and minor criminal activity also showed “you have a history that shows in the past you’ve put people at risk,” the judge said. “I don’t think you need to be a person that understands E=mc2 to understand the risk of pointing a laser at aircraft.”
Charges were filed for obstructing a flying aircraft, as well as other charges. The suspects were held in lieu of $25,000 bail. No evidence of burglary was found at the site of the alarm, and the suspects are not believed to have been involved in any burglary.
From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune
A police evidence technician displays the laser pointer that was confiscated. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the laser emits red light.
On July 11 2012, a Southwest Airlines pilot was lased as he came in for a landing in Omaha. Subsequently, an Omaha Police Department helicopter was also lased six or seven times, with the pilot reporting being temporarily blinded. Smith was arrested in his backyard by a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy.
From KETV and Omaha.com. LaserPointerSafety.com originally reported on this in July 2012, when police had not yet arrested Smith. The photo above is from that story.
UPDATED July 22 2013: Michael Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison to be followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. He was the first person in Nebraska indicted under the February 14 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft. From KETV and WOWT News.
On May 18 2012, Michael Brandon Smith, then 35 years old, aimed a green laser beam at a St. Louis Metro Air Support helicopter that was investigating a burglary. The beam illuminated the cockpit several times. The vision of the pilot and observer was affected; the observer later said he had short-term vision problems. Ground units arrested Smith -- still with the laser in his hand -- at his residence in O’Fallon, Missouri. The incident diverted the helicopter from the burglary investigation.
Smith pleaded guilty in federal court in November 2012 to one felony count of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft.
From STLtoday.com and The Republic. The story was originally briefly reported in LaserPointerSafety.com.
During the April 10 2013 court hearing, Waistle was said to be “very scared about what could happen to him”. Recorder Graham Cook said “You are right to be scared, you could easily be going behind that door” meaning jail. Instead, Waistle received a six-month suspended sentence plus 150 hours of unpaid work.
Leaving the courtroom, Waistle put two fingers up (photo above) which the Daily Star’s headline called “defiant”.
From the Daily Star
A photo shows the beam aimed by Daniel Dangler
Click to read more...
On July 18 2012, a photographer in the helicopter saw the cockpit light up with a green light. He told the pilot not to look towards the beam. The beam location was identified and police officers on the ground questioned Dangler. According to prosecutors, Dangler said he didn’t realize the beam would harm anyone or that it was a crime.
He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012 and was sentenced April 10 2013.
The FAA has a separate civil case pending which could result in a fine of up to $11,000.
Philly.com reported that Dangler is “an unemployed high-school dropout with convictions for burglary, driving under the influence and marijuana possession.” The news source also quoted the photographer, Alasdair Nugent, as saying “It is almost the same as pointing a gun at a person.”
From MyFoxPhilly.com, Philly.com, Philly.com more detailed story, and CBSlocal.com. Note: MyFoxPhilly identified the helicopter as “SkyFOX”, Philly.com called it “Fox29” while CBSlocal identified it as “Chopper 3 HD”. From news coverage, it appears to be the same helicopter.
For the text of the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, click the “Read More…” link.
According to the indictment, on December 27 2012 each man aimed a laser pointer at the Halo Flight medical helicopter.
From an FBI Houston Division press release. Thanks to Chuck Maricle of AixiZ for bringing this to our attention.
As of March 25, Gardenhire remains free on bond pending an appeal hearing in April 2013.
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
On March 29 2012, the North Hollywood teenager aimed a laser beam from his backyard at a Cessna that was landing at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. The pilot had vision problems lasting about a day, after being lased multiple times in the eye. The Pasadena Police Department sent a helicopter to investigate. Gardenhire again aimed at the craft, hitting the pilot six times. The pilot had protective equipment and was not injured.
Gardenhire lased the aircraft from his backyard (A) about 1.5 miles from the airport (black square).
According to his attorney, Gardenhire was unaware of the hazard: “[He] had no idea that the deceptively ordinary laser he had borrowed from a friend was powerful enough to be seen by, much less distract, a pilot thousands of feet away…. [A] severe sentence would be disproportionate to the conduct.”
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said Gardenhire told FBI agents that the friend who loaned him the laser told him not to shine it at anyone’s eyes because it would blind people. She said Gardenhire telling the FBI he didn't think about the dangers doesn't mean he wasn't aware of the dangers and responsible for the consequences.
"One can imagine a drunk driver making the same excuse - that he just 'didn't think about the dangers' of getting behind the wheel in an impaired state. But disregarding a clear risk does not absolve one of responsibility for assuming it," Mills said, according to the Pasadena Star-News.
Gardenhire was arrested in April 2012. He was the second person indicted under the Feb. 2012 federal law making it illegal to aim at an aircraft or the flight path of an aircraft. (The first person was Orlando resident Glenn Stephen Hansen.) He and pleaded guilty in October 2012. He could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison under the federal law. U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson said in court that he sentenced Gardenhire to 30 months so as to send a message to other people.
From CNN, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Daily News, Wired and Burbank Leader. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered this story in March 2012 when the initial incident was reported, and in April 2012 when Gardenhire was indicted.
Tristan, left, and Uresti
Margarito Tristan III, 23, was charged with illuminating an aircraft with a laser pointer, impairing the operator, and with possession of marijuana. Eugene Uresti, 22, was charged with resisting arrest and public intoxication. A third occupant of the car was released with no charges filed.
Tristan told arresting officers that he was trying to hit a star with the laser.
From the Houston Chronicle
UPDATED September 25 2013: Tristan was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his prison term. Details are here.
The entire video from the Air One helicopter can be seen here at YouTube.
The incident was captured on video. Above is a still frame from the video, showing the maximum laser impingement on the camera. (It should be noted that this is a very brief and atypical freeze frame; for most of the video the laser is waving around but is not aimed directly into the camera lens.)
When arrested, he was clad only in his boxer shorts. Santodomingo told officers “I wanted to see how far it [the laser’s beam] would go.” Sentencing is scheduled for July 25 2013; he could receive up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
From NBCDFW.com and the Dallas Morning News
UPDATED July 25 2013: Santodomingo was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
On August 21 2012, a Sun Country Airlines chartered Boeing 737 was illuminated by a green laser beam while at 12,000 feet over Suffolk County on its way to John F. Kennedy International Airport. A Suffolk County police helicopter was sent to investigate and also had a green beam pointed at it. The police pilot was able to trace the beam back to the home of Angel Rivas in Shirley, a community in the town of Brookhaven on Long Island’s south shore. After landing, the three persons on the police helicopter were treated at a hospital and released.
At Rivas’ home, patrol officer, Matthew Dewitt, confronted the 33-year-old, who denied aiming at the aircraft. No action was taken due to a lack of any other evidence.
On January 4 2013, Dewitt was responding to a call of an altercation at a convenience store. Rivas turned out to be one of the persons involved. When asked for ID, Rivas said he did not have any due to a suspended license, and then told Dewitt “You know me, you were at my house, I was the one who lasered the plane.” Rivas was immediately arrested, advised of his Miranda rights, and was taken into custody.
Click to read more...
Police are seeking information about the incident.
From the Trader & Guardian
Ian Collins pleaded guilty to “shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot”. He paid a £400 fine plus £200 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
From the Express & Star
A video taken from the police helicopter, showing the laser beams, is here.
James Spiers and Joshua O’Hare-Knight
From the New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz. Thanks to Mark Wardle of NZALPA for bringing the video to our attention. This is an updated story; the original LaserPointerSafety.com news item from May 2011 is here.
The November 12 2012 warning noted that “Shining a laser at a force helicopter or other aircraft has the potential to bring that aircraft down…. [I]t could lead to someone being seriously injured or worse.”
From the Evening Times
Levy, 32, had previously been arrested for a June 30 2012 incident where Levy aimed a laser at least two separate times at a fire truck. She pleaded guilty on October 9 2012, was referred to mental health court, and was released on two years’ probation.
Irene Marie Levy
The crew member was treated for temporary vision impairment and will make a full recovery.
According to the Coast Guard, this was the third laser incident since June 2012 for aircrews at Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi. A Navy air station nearby has reported two other incidents.
From KTRK-TV 13 Houston, CNN and Caller.com
On July 20 2012, the Polair 61 helicopter was patrolling when it was hit by the laser beam. The pilot took evasive action. The crew was able to identify the source. Ground crews arrested 29-year-old Patricia Giguere and 31-year-old Clemens Trauttmansdorff. They first denied having a laser, then eventually surrendered to police.
Patricia Giguere demonstrates how she aimed the laser from her porch
In an interview, Giguere said she and Trauttmansdorff had bought the laser in Bali. They did not think the beam could reach the helicopter. Giguere was in Australia on a partner provisional visa. She said the conviction could jeopardize her chances of staying in the country.
News reports gave conflicting information on the frequency of laser incidents in the area. A Police Air Wing pilot said “laser attacks took place at least twice a week, and sometimes up to five times a night.” However, the Rockingham Police officer-in-charge said laser incidents “don’t happen very often.”
From the West Australian and InMyCommunity.com
From SFGate.com and Catholic Online
UPDATED May 3 2013: The man was acquitted January 8 2013 in U.S. District Court . He wrote to LaserPointerSafety.com in May, asking that his name be removed from the above article, due to it causing difficulty when looking for work. We have removed his name and the link URLs out of courtesy, since he was acquitted. The acquittal judgment, with his name redacted, can be viewed here.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION from LaserPointerSafety.com: On May 3 2013, I spoke with the person; for convenience, I will call him "John Doe." The following is his account, based on his perspective.
On July 17 2012 he was on the phone. As he talked, he idly swung his 5 milliwatt green laser pointer back and forth in the sky. He was not aiming at anything, it was just on and swinging.
Later, a police officer came to him saying that a sheriff's department helicopter had said they saw a laser from his location. She asked if he had a laser. Doe said yes, and showed her how he had used it. She felt it was an accident and left. He did not have to surrender the laser.
In August, two FBI agents came to see him. An agent said, "You are being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, as a threat to the United States."
He was charged with a federal felony in late October 2012. When it came to trial on January 8 2013, there were police officers, plus the two FBI agent, and federal prosecutor. They showed a ten-minute video from the helicopter. Doe said you could not see the beam, just a dot that looks like any other light on the ground, which at one point got brighter.
The trial lasted about three hours. The judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence, and he was formally acquitted.
Doe did say, "Definitely people should be very careful as these lasers are not toys, but It would be one thing if my intent was malicious and I had a very powerful laser. Then, calling this a felony and having a five-year penalty would be justified for a high powered laser. There needs to more public awareness on the issue.”
The judge warned that “those who target aircraft in this dangerous and reckless way should expect to go to prison.”
Jackson’s lawyer said the laser was aimed at the helicopter for a total of 37 seconds, in flashes lasting 1-2 seconds each, over a 17-minute period.
According to the prosecutor, pilots are required to have an eye test after a laser incident, before being cleared to fly again. Jackson was ordered to pay £30 to cover the cost of the pilot’s eye test.
The laser was described as “about 10 inches long and about as big around as a thumb.”
From The Republic and WAVE3.com
The director of operations for STAT MedEvac said that the medical helicopter is hit by lasers several times a year, and that the hits “can kill people.”
On January 26 2012, 19-year-old Pravikash Chandra aimed a green laser pointer, bought at a local store, at three commercial aircraft that were on final approach to Auckland Airport. A police helicopter was sent to investigate and was also hit by Chandra. The judge in the case said that “the lives of over 600 people were put at risk.”
Chandra pleaded guilty to four charges of endangering aircraft under the New Zealand Civil Aviation Act. He could have received one year in jail on each charge. While the judge felt that imprisonment was warranted in order to send a message, he instead gave Chandra a 4-1/2 month home detention sentence. In addition, the laser was ordered destroyed and Chandra was required to take any courses mandated by his probation officer.
Chandra said he did not know of the hazards: “I didn’t try to act like a smart ass, I just didn’t know.” His lawyer said the teen apologized to the pilots and said that what he did was “reckless and foolish behavior.”
From the New Zealand Herald. See a related story, where the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association called for Australian-style restrictions on laser pointer sales and possession.
US: Myrtle Beach ranks first on the FAA’s list of laser illuminations of commercial flights, ahead of Las Vegas and Orlando. This is leading to an August 4 meeting of the Horry County Council to consider a ban on laser pointers. From WMBF News, Septem