A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
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 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
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
There had been previous reports of laser interference in late June 2020.
From the Nanaimo News Bulletin and CTV 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."
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
This came as a result of laser strikes on airplanes approaching Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. Since November 2019 there were three illuminations from an area of Effingham County, 10-15 miles northwest of Savannah.
The county sheriff said that additional laser strikes had occurred prior to November, and the general area of the strikes was recently identified.
Anyone with information can call the Effingham County Sheriff's Office at 912-754-3449.
UPDATE November 11 2020: A 48-year-old from Rincon Georgia was indicted for aiming a laser pointer at aircraft on three separate occasions from November 2019 to January 2020. Details are below in a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia.
Click to read more...
On 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.
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.
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 Royal Canadian Mounted Police searched for, but did not find, a suspect.
From Global News
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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….”
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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 incident happened September 30 or October 1, 1987. According to an October 2 1987 Pentagon statement, a U.S. Navy P-3 reconnaissance aircraft was “illuminated by an intense light” from the Soviet ship Chukotka. An Air Force WC-135 intelligence plane also was illuminated.
The statement said the light “disturbed” the vision of the co-pilot, and “although preliminary medical evaluation has shown no apparent damage, further detailed tests may be required to determine if, in fact, no damage to her eyes occurred.”
Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wy) initially disclosed the incident. He said “In my opinion, anything that disturbs your vision for 10 minutes damages your vision. The effect was to temporarily blind that co-pilot."
According to the Pentagon, they believe the light source was a laser. The Pentagon statement did not speculate on the reason for the illumination of the aircraft.
The New York Times referenced one official who said the Soviet ship might have tried to harass or blind the pilots, while a naval consultant said it could be that the laser was used to track missiles and was inadvertently shined at the U.S. aircraft.
Such illumination had occurred before, according to the Pentagon statement.
The 1987 edition of a Pentagon publication, Soviet Military Power, said that "recent Soviet irradiation of Free World manned surveillance aircraft and ships could have caused serious eye damage to observers." The following picture and caption appeared on page 113 in the book:
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.
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.
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
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
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 “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.
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.)
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.
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.”
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
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 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.
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.”
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.
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
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
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
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
Click to read more...
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.
- 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
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.”
Click to read more...
Ahmed Maher Elhelw
Click to read more...
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.”
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
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.”
Click to read more...
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
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
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”
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
From the Moscow Times
- In Vancouver, the pilot of a K.D. Air Corporation airplane reported a near-miss with a UAV when taking off from Vancouver International Airport. Investigators were searching to find the person responsible. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesperson said this was not the first case, and they have investigated several complaints of model aircraft flying near the airport. According to the Vancouver Sun, he also said that “lasers pointed at police helicopters and other aircraft are equally troubling and there are few regulations prohibiting the use of either device in such situations.”
- In New York City, a UAV described as a “drone” flying near the George Washington Bridge came within 800 feet of a police helicopter. The UAV was at about 2,000 feet altitude, which is above the 400 foot limit set by the Federal Aviation Administration for model aircraft used for recreation. The helicopter pilot was able to track the drone as it landed. Officers on the ground arrested Wilkins Mendoza, 34, and Remy Castro, 23, and charged them with reckless endangerment.
From the Vancouver Sun (drone only story; drone + laser story) and the New York 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.
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 propeller plane was patrolling the northern part of Crimea when it was fired upon during daylight hours.
From The Aviationist
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
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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
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...
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
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 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.
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
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)
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.
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...
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
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...
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.
From WWMT Newschannel 3 and MLive. A video news report is at WOODTV.com.
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”
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
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.
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.
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...
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
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
90 days in jail for Michael Cerise
The lasings happened on November 9 2011. A U.S. Airways flight carrying about 200 passengers altered its course by 90 degrees during final approach, to avoid the laser. A Frontier Airlines flight carrying about 130 passengers was also illuminated. A Phoenix Police Department helicopter sent to investigate was hit as well.
Cerise was found at his home with a laser hidden in his couch cushions. At first he said he had not pointed lasers at the sky, but in a later interview said he had aimed it upwards to test its distance capabilities.
Three pilots had temporary partial blindness due to the laser light. Authorities said there had been similar incidents in the area for eight months prior to Cerise’s arrest.
From CBS5, AZCentral.com and East Valley Tribune.
The incident happened early in the morning of July 11 2012 in the backyard of a home in a suburb northwest of Omaha. As of July 16, no arrest had been made.
A police evidence technician displays the laser pointer that was confiscated from the Omaha man. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the laser emits red light.
A spokesperson for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said "We're also told he might have been doing this on prior occasions. And on those occasions, it involved planes flying into Eppley [Airfield]. We're going to be investigating those allegations."
From Fox 42 News, KETV 7 and the Omaha World-Herald
UPDATED April 24 2013: Michael A. Smith, 30, was convicted of the July 11 2012 lasing. Sentencing is scheduled for July 22 2013. More is at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.
UPDATE 2, July 22 2013: Michael A. Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison 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.
The First Officer was in command of the aircraft when two flashes of green laser light came into the cockpit, about 10 minutes before the plane landed safely at JFK. After landing, he went to a local hospital for an examination. Apparently, no other person on the flight was adversely affected by the laser light.
The FAA and FBI are investigating the incident.
Flight path of JetBlue Flight 657 on July 15 2012, from FlightAware
From myfoxny.com, NYCAviation.com, NBC 4 New York, and ABC News.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: The FAA defines a laser eye “injury” as anything which happens to an eye, including temporary afterimages and watering eyes. According to this definition, around 1.5% of all laser illuminations of aircraft result in an eye “injury”. In 2011 there were 55 FAA-reported “injuries” out of 3,191 total laser incidents. From Jan 1 to June 28 2012, there were 20 “injuries” out of 1,519 incidents.
Almost all of what FAA calls “injuries” are in fact normal eye effects resulting from bright light exposure. For example, a person temporarily flashblinded by a camera’s flash would be “injured” according to FAA, although eye safety experts clearly state that an afterimage is temporary bleaching of photoreceptors and is not an injury.
Using a scientific definition of visible laser eye injury, meaning a minimally visible lesion on the retina, there have been no documented permanent laser eye injuries to pilots in any of the over 11,000 FAA laser incidents on record. This is according to FAA’s top laser/aviation safety expert. There have been roughly 3-5 temporary laser eye injuries where pilots had a lesion which was medically visible, and which subsequently healed to leave no spots or other adverse vision effect.
This is not to discount any eye effect or distraction of pilots -- aiming lasers at aircraft is a crime and a serious safety issue. But FAA should be more accurate, and give additional information, when providing information about pilot eyes affected by laser light.
- Two counts of interference with flight crew (20 years maximum penalty for each count)
- Two counts of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft (5 years maximum penalty for each count)
- Two counts of assaulting, resisting or impeding federal officers (25 years maximum penalty for each count)
The Virginian-Pilot reported that Bruce aimed lasers at the jets “more than a dozen times” since December 2011. He was annoyed by the their noise. The two counts of assaulting federal officers may be related to Bruce calling the air station to threaten to shoot at the noisy aircraft.
According to a press release, “it is believed that the Eastern District of Virginia is the second jurisdiction to indict” using the new Federal law passed February 14 2012, making it a criminal offense to aim a laser pointer at or near an aircraft.
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, PilotOnline.com, and WAVY.com
UPDATE July 31 2012: Bruce pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. The other five counts were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea. Bruce will be sentenced October 19 2012. He could receive up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Pilots testified that they saw lasers at least 10 times from the area of Bruce’s house between December 29 2011 and June 5 2012. One of the pilots lased by Bruce reported that direct eye exposure was painful, distracted her during landing, and gave her a headache. A spokesperson for Oceana Naval Air Station said that, of 18 laser incidents in Virginia Beach since December 2011, 12 of the incidents were due to Bruce. There were 12 incidents total in 2011. From the Virginian-Pilot.
The pilot located the house and called in ground units. While police were talking to a woman, Tyler John Pennywitt, 40, was seen running through the house. He was arrested while hiding in the shower.
Pennywitt said he had pointed a laser at aircraft “more than a dozen times” but that he did not know the laser could reach to the aircraft. While he was arrested for a Florida felony, misuse of a laser device on an aircraft, he could also face federal criminal charges.
Tyler John Pennywitt
A KSDK reporter quoted a St. Louis County Police helicopter pilot as saying “just about everyone who flies gets hit with a laser pointer at some point.” It is not clear if the pilot is referring to police helicopter pilots or to all pilots. (A LaserPointerSafety.com analysis shows that in the U.S., the chance of a pilot seeing a laser beam on any given flight in a single year, as of 2012, is about once in every 14,000 flights. This is based on 50,522,825 operations at U.S. airports Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011 according to FAA’s Air Traffic Activity System, divided by 3,591 laser incidents in 2011, to give one incident for every 14,069 operations.)
From KSDK and KMOV
Police in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan are searching for the perpetrators. They believe the laser beams came from around South Valley Airport.
From KTVU.com, the Salt Lake Tribune, and Fox13now.com
Hansen could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, he “agrees to make full restitution to the affected airline companies.” He may not face the maximum, since the U.S. agreed to downward adjustments in the sentencing guidelines in return for Hanson accepting responsibility for his actions.
As of May 16 Hansen has not been sentenced.
The Plea Agreement states that Hansen “temporarily blinded or distracted the pilots of commercial passenger airliners during a critical phase of flight as those aircraft took off from OIA…. On some occasions, the laser beam … caused pilots to lose their night vision and, on at least one occasion, resulted in a pilot’s removal from duty for medical examinations and to recover from temporary vision problems.”
When arrested on March 24 2012, Hansen told FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He said that “he did not know that the laser would harm the pilots or affect the aircraft.”
LaserPointerSafety.com’s original story on the March 24 arrest is here. The full text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
Click to read more...
POLICE INVESTIGATE LASER LIGHT ATTACKS - MIRANDA
Police are investigating two separate laser light incidents in Sydney’s south.
About 7:50pm, Sunday 6 May 2012, a Boeing 767 was on approach to Sydney Airport and flying over the Kurnell area when a green laser was pointed at the aircraft. The plane landed safely and police were notified about the incident. Despite police patrols of Kurnell, Bonna Point Reserve and the Botany Bay National Park the culprit of the laser attack was not located.
In another incident, about 12:45am today police were called to a petrol station on the corner of Port Hacking Road and The Kingsway after the store attendant reported a green laser light being shone at the premises. The beam was reported to have come from the vicinity of Kareena Road and despite patrols of the area police could not find any trace of those involved.
Police from Miranda Local Area Command are investigating both incidents and urge anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Members of the public are reminded that high powered lasers are prohibited weapons and cannot be possessed without a permit.
[End NSW Police Force press release]
The map shows the Kurnell region (red oval) where the laser was aimed at the aircraft,
and the location of the petrol station (“A” marker), relative to Sydney Airport (center of map).
Video from a CHP airborne camera shows the green beam at an instant of maximum intensity. The bright/dark line is an artifact from the camera sensor being oversaturated.
Switching to a high-resolution infrared camera moments later, the suspect can be clearly seen (white dot in center, just to the left of a house).
The CHP aircraft had been searching for the source of laser beams aimed at airplanes flying over Lodi, when they were repeatedly illuminated by a green beam. By switching between a color camera that captured the beam, and a high-resolution infrared camera that showed a suspect, ground units were able to move in on the suspect.
Charles Brill, 52, was arrested and charged with one state felony charge of willfully discharging a laser at an aircraft. Federal charges could also be filed under the new law signed Feb. 14 2012 by President Obama, according to a police spokesperson.
Brill told the arresting officer that the reason he pointed the laser at the aircraft was that "he liked watching the green color light and seeing how it sparkled.” The arrest report also said that Brill wanted "to use (the laser) as a reference point and see how far the laser beam could travel."
From KCRA.com and ABC News10.net. A News10.net news report video is here; the raw video from the CHP helicopter is here as well as at the KCRA page.
Gardenhire had been arrested on state charges at his North Hollywood home about two hours after the March 29 lasing, and had been free on bail while the FBI and other authorities worked on the federal indictment. Each federal count carries a maximum prison term of 5 years, so Gardenhire faces a total of 10 years in prison. He could also be charged under a separate FAA civil suit for interference with an aircraft.
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
A post on Gardenhire’s Facebook page just before the federal charge said he was going to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in LA: “Twin towers tomorrow... Not looking forward !!!:/ whats poppin though?=)”. A post afterwards said “There on to me o.O”. On Facebook, he stated his Activity as “graffing” (complex graffiti) and his Interests as “Bitches and hoes”.
From 89.3 KPCC, the Glendale News, the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly.com, and 7th Space Interactive.
*The term “commercial-grade” is not a standard term in the laser field. An FBI spokeswoman told LaserPointerSafety.com that the term “was not a technical description but one to differentiate between a small personal laser one might use for an office presentation, as opposed to the kind used in the attack, which might be used for the grand opening of a department store or other commercial enterprise.” It is surprising to LaserPointerSafety.com that a teenager would have such a laser, which would require wall power (110 VAC) and would be bulky and thus harder to aim at an aircraft. We are trying to get more details.
UPDATED, October 29 2012: Gardenhire pleaded guilty to deliberately aiming at multiple aircraft. Sentencing was set for January 2013. From the Burbank Leader.
UPDATED March 26 2013: Gardenhire was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. The judge said he wanted to send a message to others. More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com story.
The teen was arrested at a location (A) about 1.5 miles from the airport (black square).
The jet was illuminated twice while on approach to the airport. The helicopter was hit approximately six times. There were no injuries, or adverse effects on airport operations.
The teen’s name was withheld pending an FBI investigation.
From the Burbank Leader and North Hollywood Patch
UPDATED April 19 2012: Adam Gardenhire, 18, was charged on April 18 2012 with two federal counts of aiming a laser at an aircraft, in violation of a new law that took effect in mid-February. The teen faces up to 10 years in prison. More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com story.
UPDATED March 26 2013: Gardenhire was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. The judge said he wanted to send a message to others. More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com story.
Glenn Stephen Hansen
Glenn Stephen Hansen, 49, told arresting FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He had filed over 500 complaints against the noise. He told the agents that airplanes “purposefully flew lower over his house in response to the noise complaints.” He was aware that shining the laser at aircraft was “wrong” but that he “had no idea” that the light could affect the pilots and cause a hazard.
Hansen was arrested March 24 2012 on new federal charges signed into law Feb. 14 by President Obama. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
LaserPointerSafety.com is not aware of any other person being arrested for so many laser incidents. If Hansen is responsible for 23 incidents, that represents 3.4% of all U.S. incidents, and 96% of all incidents involving Orlando International Airport, during the period in question (from January 1 through March 23).
Hansen was arrested at a home about 7 miles southwest of Orlando International Airport (black square).
Click to read more...
The FBI investigation started after a January 8 2012 incident involving an AirTran departure that was 400 feet in the air when the pilot was flashed with a green light. He was tracked for 30-60 seconds, to an altitude of 2000 feet. The pilot took evasive actions including turning off all lights, making a sharp left turn, and asking for a change of course. The pilot told the FBI “he was concerned he could lose vision on the plane.”
The FBI focused on Hansen due to his previous noise complaints. Because of the accuracy of the laser “hits”, they believed Hansen was tracking flights on public websites. His home was placed under surveillance. At about 9 pm March 23 they observed a green beam coming from his house, shining towards an aircraft. (The pilot stated that the light illuminated the cockpit but did not go directly in his eye.) Hansen was arrested at about 4 am the next morning.
From the Orlando Sentinel and the criminal complaint/search warrant. The text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
The nature of the glasses is a mystery. Although a Gizmodo headline said the man wore “laser glasses”, the word “laser” was not used in the original CBS DFW story used as Gizmodo’s source.
A photo (above) taken by Barber shows the man wearing two pairs of glasses. A Google Image search for “laser glasses” and “laser pointer glasses” turned up one type of laser-emitting glasses but these have a different design: thick rims with a silver laser embedded above the nose. An eBay search turned up a similar pair; these do not appear to match either of the man’s glasses.
Monday is president and CEO of Monday Restaurants LLC, according to STLtoday.
From CBS St. Louis and STLtoday. The original LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here.
18-year-old Pravikash Chandra was arrested and charged with four counts of endangering transport. Each charge has a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
A spokesperson for the Eagle said the crew had lasers pointed at them “all the time. It happens fairly often and it’s a risk to the crew.”
From the New Zealand Herald
UPDATE July 18 2012: Chandra pleaded guilty to all four charges of endangering transport. Sentencing was set for September 2012. A report on the laser’s characteristics, applications, place of purchase and use instructions will be prepared for the judge. From the New Zealand Herald and the Herald Sun.
From CTV News
The Saab C40 aircraft was passing Strathblane (red open circle) when it was lased.
The ground distance is about 8.5 miles from Glasgow Airport (green triangle).
The judge said Maricic’s actions were “extremely dangerous no matter how unintentional.”
From the New Zealand Herald
Laser attacks were mentioned as a possibility by the ASF manager. An Italian-language news source said “police have arrested several suspects in October for trying to bring down a plane of the flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Lahore to Quetta by using a large laser projector. But the pilot managed to divert the course and avert disaster.” (Via Google Translate)
From Pakistan Today and the Italian-language Blitz Quotidiano
On December 5 2011, a small single-engine plane was preparing to land at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island, NY. The pilot reported seeing a light aimed towards him (some sources say it was red, others say it was green). FAA officials informed Suffolk County police. The Suffolk Police helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser. They easily traced the laser back to its source, Smith’s home in St. James, NY. Ground units then moved in to arrest the 21-year-old. It took about an hour from the time of the FAA call to Smith’s arrest.
David Smith, arrested for lasing aircraft
Click to read more...
On December 9, Smith was charged with “obstructing governmental administration in the second degree”. Additional charges may be filed by the Port Authority Terrorism Task Force and perhaps the FAA and other governmental agencies.
From The Moscow Times
From STLtoday.com and STLtoday.com incident reports
UPDATE February 9 2012: Brian David Monday was indicted on one felony count of interfering with an airplane and a helicopter. The LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here.
Four commuter jets were illuminated on Friday between 6:06 and 7:56 pm. On Saturday, a commuter jet and a Boeing 757 were illuminated around 7:00 pm. The aircraft were between 1600 and 2500 feet when struck by the laser beams. There were no reports of injuries, eye effects, or flight deviations.
Aviation expert John Trepani said the clustering of the incidents was troubling: “That’s unusual and highly disturbing. Do we have people fooling around or do we have people who have bad intentions to airliners using a sighting, using a laser as a sighter, a weapon’s sighter, just to see the reaction, just to see if Homeland Security takes this seriously?”
Trepani was also troubled by the fact that all aircraft landed on Runway 4, which CBS called “one of the most difficult runways at LaGuardia” (although this claim was disputed by a pilot in the comments).
Anyone with information can contact local police and/or the FAA. LaserPointerSafety.com has a page about how to report laser incidents; the page includes FAA contact information.
From MSNBC.com and CBS New York
From BBC News
The airport manager said he would contact police, to try to find the person who tracked the aircraft with the laser.
There were 182 laser illuminations in Canada in 2010, according to Transport Canada. Fourteen of these took place in Alberta.
From the Calgary Herald
An airline spokesperson said there was no effect on the pilots. A police helicopter searched for suspects but did not find any. A St. Louis County Police Department spokesperson said county police are not investigating. The FAA and FBI were notified. STLtoday.com quoted an FBI spokesperson as saying the agency was not investigating because “no one was arrested and no one was hurt.” However, KSDK said the FBI was conducting an investigation.
St. Louis has been a focus since July, when local authorities held a media campaign to inform the public about the dangers and consequences of aiming at aircraft.
From STLtoday.com and KSDK
The boy told police that he “had not planned to blind the pilot and had only directed the beam at the flashing lights of the airplane.” Police said his parents would be fined 500 rubles (USD $15) for negligence.
The deputy chief of police at the Barnaul airport, Andrey Spiridonov, said that tragedy was avoided by a miracle.
The laser pointer being displayed by police; the boy’s apartment building, mother and bedroom window. Larger versions are in a photo gallery at Altapress.ru.
Barnaul, Altai Krai federation, Siberia
It is about 4.5 miles from Barnaul Airport (red marker) to the boy’s apartment building (green marker) at 35 Sunny Glades. Click on map for a larger image.
Analysis, news links and additional details are after the jump (click “Read More…” below).Click to read more...
The incident came while the helicopter was searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a commercial airplane landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Rogers has not been accused or charged in that incident.
The sheriff’s department said there have been seven illuminations of their flight crews in the past 12 months, resulting in five arrests.
Rogers’ home in Compton (“A” on the map)
is about 9.5 miles from Los Angeles International Airport
From the Los Angeles Times
Police received several calls that a group of people in a silver people carrier was shining a green laser on the A40 near Witney, at about 8 p.m on September 15 2011. Police also were contacted by air traffic control staff after an aircraft was targeted with a green laser at 8 p.m. The police declined to release details of the flight or its effect, if any, on the flight until statements had been taken from the pilots and crew. The fine for aiming at aircraft is up to £2,500.
From the Witney Gazette. This news item is being cross-posted in on the News/Non-aviation incidents page as well.
Risch and a second youth were apprehended June 20, 2010 after aiming a green laser beam at the aircraft six times. The second youth was released; Risch was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft and possession of small amount of marijuana. Risch was 18 at the time of his arrest.
He pleaded no contest on September 13 2010 to a felony count of discharging a laser at an aircraft. He was sentenced to 60 days on the sheriff's work project and five years probation. On November 30, his probation was revoked for failure to complete the terms of his sentence. He was put on the Sacramento Police Department “Most Wanted” list on January 17 2011.
From the Sacramento Bee (Risch is #9 in this “Most Wanted” slideshow), Sacramento Police Department. News of the original arrest from News10.net and Wopular.com.
UPDATE September 2 2011: Apparently, Risch has not yet been apprehended. LaserPointerSafety.com has not been able to find any indication of his removal from the Most Wanted list, or news items of any capture or arrest.
The three persons were arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. They were held overnight. The teens were referred to the Youth Offending Team while the man received a caution.
From BBC News and the Daily Mail
Fronte-Liporacci was arrested at a home (“A” above) near Orlando International Airport.
Beginning on August 24, pilots from Jet Blue, Southwest and Atlantic Coast Airlines had reported a total of four laser incidents. This prompted the August 28 search by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.
From My Fox Orlando and ClickOrlando.com
From 9 News and the NSW Police
Police are asking the public for any information. A police spokesman said the lasers were “powerful enough to cause permanent eye damage.”
From Taiwan News and Kiev Post
In a related story, Russia Today has posted a video showing what it looks like to be in an aircraft during a laser illumination:
Frame showing point of maximum dazzle when a laser beam hits the aircraft’s cockpit window. Click to see the YouTube video.
From UPI, and from Russia Today via YouTube
UPDATE July 28 2011: Bloomberg quotes news agency RIA Novosti as saying a suspect was caught on July 27. The 26-year-old told police “he couldn’t even imagine that his actions could cause a plane to crash.” The news agency says the suspect was 40 kilometers from the airport on Kosygin (Kosygina) Street in western Moscow.
The map shows the suspect’s location (A) in relation to Domodedovo Airport (B)
His lawyer said Saulnier had an interest in astronomy, and was “not thinking about the consequences, he’s just thinking and wondering whether his beam can hit what he thought was the belly of the airplane.... In hindsight, he knows the seriousness of it and accepts responsibility...”
From the Calgary Herald
UPDATE July 28 2011: Representatives of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Saulnier was not a RASC member, and did not represent responsible amateur astronomy. More details are here.
Two years probation, $250 fine and 240 hours of community service
Essential to the conviction was a video analysis done by a pilot who had been illuminated multiple times by Heeringa.Click to read more...
Jeffs is also suspected of aiming a day earlier towards aircraft landing at Tucson International Airport; charges have not yet been brought.
The night before the arrest, commercial aircraft approaching Tucson International Airport reported lasers coming from the area of Ryan Field. The suspect’s home (A) is about 4 miles from Ryan Field, and is 11 miles from TIA.
The helicopter illumination, and subsequent tracking of Jeffs by night vision camera, was captured on video released by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department:
Click to see the full video
From the Green Valley News
From a NSW Police press release and Sky News Australia
On June 8, a pilot was blinded by a laser pointer while landing a Boeing passenger plane in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, but managed to land safely. The beam came from the area of a local market.
Earlier in the week a pilot of an Airbus A320 plane was blinded by a laser light during landing at the same airport
From RIA Novosti
Violators could be charged with interfering with air crew duties. The Authority is looking for the laser perpetrator(s), and has posted notices in newspapers stating that shining lights at aircraft is “a security offense”. Also, several pilots have filed complaints with the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority.
From the Virgin Islands News Online
From the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
A 45-year-old Garland man, Sammy Ladymon, was arrested and charged with “illumination of aircraft with intense light”, a Texas state misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 1 year.
Ladymon’s house (A) is about 14 miles in a straight line from Love Field (B)
The arrest came one day after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would impose a civil penalty of up to $11,000 on persons lasing an aircraft. There was no immediate word as to whether Ladymon would face the FAA fine or other federal charges as well.Click to read more...
The incidents happened on September 15 2010. Rhode Island State Police charged him with disorderly conduct, while he faced federal charges of “interfering with an aircraft with reckless disregard for safety.”
At a press conference held September 23, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island said, “It comes down to personal responsibility. This is about conduct. It applies to [laser] pointers, a motor vehicle, pitchfork or anything else.”
From the Warwick Beacon and Providence Journal
UPDATE: On January 21 2011, Aquino pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence. Sentencing was scheduled for April 21, according to the Boston Globe. A Department of Justice press release said that Aquino “faces a maximum sentence of twenty years imprisonment; 3 years supervised release; and $250,000 fine.”
UPDATE #2: On September 12 2011, Aquino was sentenced to six months of home confinement plus five years probation. The judge also ordered him to continue undergoing mental health counseling, be drug tested 72 times each year, and perform 500 hours of community service. The prosecution had recommended two years in jail. The judge gave a more lenient sentence after hearing about Aquino’s good behavior in the year since the laser attack occurred. The judge did note: "What you did was not only incredibly dangerous, but also incredibly stupid. It’s time to grow up. Time to think about the consequences of what you're doing.'' From the Providence Journal
Many more details about this new policy are at LaserPointerSafety.com’s main article, which is here.
Police said that the penalty for endangering aircraft can be up to 14 years in prison.
From the Waikato Times and Television New Zealand
20-year-old Nicholas Paul Gregory told police he had aimed at the aircraft, but “he did not know the beam was strong enough to reach the plane.” At trial, his defense lawyer said Gregory had no intent to harm anyone: “He is still shocked at his own stupidity and the consequences of his own stupidity.”
Gregory could have received a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
From the Brisbane Times
The arrest occurred one day after a commercial aircraft taking off from Sydney Airport reported being illuminated by laser light. Police had reports of green laser use in Bardwell Park, west of the airport, and tracked the use to the 27-year-old. His laser pointer was seized and tested, and found to be in the “prohibited weapon” category.
From the Herald Sun and a NSW Police Force press release
UPDATE, MAY 10 2011: Two men were arrested, 27-year-old Sergio Mitso Nagaoka and 21-year-old Lucas Fagundes Olhiara. They are Portuguese-speaking Brazilian citizens. Nagaoka was charged with using a prohibited weapon, and threatening the safety of an aircraft. Olhiara was charged with possessing a prohibited weapon without a permit. (Note: Some news reports transposed the 21-year-old’s name, writing it as “Lucas Olhiara Fagundes”. LaserPointerSafety.com does not know which version is correct.)
Update from the St. George and Sutherland Shire Leader
New South Wales prohibits the possession of laser pointers without a permit, and classifies them as dangerous weapons.
From the Sydney Morning Herald
The first incident happened about 9 pm, the second was at 10:25 and the third came at 10:28. The pilot of the third airplane was illuminated directly in the eye; there was no reported injury.
News accounts noted that “high powered laser pointers are prohibited weapons and can’t be possessed without a permit.”
From Sky News and the Sydney Morning Herald
The charge stemmed from a March 17 incident when he and Shania Smith, 22, aimed a laser at a Southwest Airlines flight that was landing at Midway Airport, and then again at a police helicopter that was investigating the Southwest illumination. Both Slater and Smith were initially charged with two counts of discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and four counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Smith is awaiting trial on May 4.
From the Chicago Sun-Times and WLS-AM
A number of similar illuminations from Georgsmarienhütte had been previously reported. Police said they would investigate whether the man arrested was responsible for the other illuminations as well. The man would be charged with “dangerous interference with the aircraft”, which carries a sentence of six months to 10 years.
From NWZ Online and Bild.de (both in German)
The map shows the general area of the arrest:
The arrest site is about 5 miles east of Midway Airport:
From the Chicago Tribune. Thanks to Joanna Skubish for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATE, MARCH 19 2011: The aircraft was a Southwest Airlines flight from San Francisco, with 137 passengers and a crew of five, that was landing at Midway. Police arrested Shania Smith, 21, and Elvin Slater, 23. Smith had just met Slater for the first time earlier that day. Smith said “I don’t know how it got in my car”, and that the first time she saw it was during the arrest, according to the Chicago Tribune. Slater’s uncle said He's a good kid. He just didn't know what he was doing.” Both Smith and Slater were charged with “discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and discharging a laser at an aircraft”, which are misdemeanors.
Google Street View of the intersection where the arrest took place,
looking west towards Midway Airport
From an updated Chicago Tribune article
UPDATE, APRIL 1 2011: Smith pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count and received a 30-day jail sentence, 18 months probation, and one month in a sheriff’s work program. More information is here.
According to the FBI, the eyes of both pilots were injured. The pilots “took their eyes off of the instruments during final approach, but the aircraft landed safely.”
The reward money is coming from both the FBI and Maryland Transportation Authority Police. Anyone with information is urged to contact the FBI at 410-265-8080 or the Maryland Transportation Authority Police at 410-859-7041.
From the Baltimore Sun and HometownAnnapolis.com. Thanks to Dan Hewett, FDA/CDRH for bringing this to our attention.
The reporter in the helicopter was surprised a laser could be so intense: “I didn’t realize how bright it was,” Tammy Rose was quoted as saying. “From the ground, it doesn’t look like it shoots that far into the sky. … I was surprised at how much it actually lit up the screens. It’s very dangerous. People don’t understand the gravity of the situation.“
Police went door to door after the 6:30 am Friday Feb. 25 2011 illumination, in an attempt to find a suspect. As of Monday Feb. 28 no results had been reported.
The animation above shows frames from just before and just after a direct hit on the news helicopter. For the complete video, visit the link below. (Don’t click on the gray “Play” button in the center -- it is part of the screen capture, and is not a working button.)
From 3TV (azfamily.com)
Four month sentence for Radu Moldovan
His lawyer said that Moldovan “wanted to see how powerful” the £4 green laser pen was. The laser beam was aimed at or near the aircraft multiple times. The local sheriff said “The consequences of a Tornado crashing at RAF Leuchars raises the most horrific possibilities of death and injury to the pilot, navigator and anyone passing underneath.”
From BBC News
Saulnier said he bought the $100 laser for his work as a contractor and as an amateur astronomer. He cooperated with police and was “remorseful and took full responsibility for his actions” according to a police spokesman.
From the Calgary Herald
However, it turns out that this incident was caused by boys on bicycles, apparently acting without pre-planning and not knowing how the lasers would affect pilot vision. During a Feb. 2011 briefing to the SAE G10T laser safety group , FAA flight standards liaison Patrick Hempen said that the truth about Sydney has not caught up with the news stories: “The attacks are usually spontaneous in nature, perpetrated by careless or malicious persons.”
Hempen said that investigation by US and Australian officials revealed that the Sydney "cluster attack" was caused by youths, riding their bicycles on a golf course at night, who stopped and took the occasion to illuminate landing aircraft. He noted that the youths’ local community had a history of acrimony directed at the airport authority due to the construction of a new runway which caused more flights over their residential area.
Hempen also investigated several laser events in the Mideast and found many of the so-called "deliberate attacks" to be similar; they were “events perpetrated by youths, in a party-like atmosphere, without care or knowledge of the havoc that they were causing.”
Based on a Feb. 1, 2011 presentation to SAE G10T.
A police helicopter was sent to investigate. NBC Los Angeles reported that the boy also aimed at the police helicopter. He was arrested in his backyard, while holding the laser. According to the Daily Mail, the boy thought that “the light would not go up to the height of the aircraft.”
The map below shows the area of the arrest (“A” on the map) in relation to the airport which is about 8 miles to the southwest.
NBCLA’s news helicopter, which was covering the arrest, was targeted by a second laser for about three seconds. (It is unclear whether this beam actually hit the helicopter. The photo below shows the view from NBCLA’s helicopter.) The second beam came from an area about one block away. Police searched the area but so far, no arrest has been made.
The indictment alleges that on August 30, 2010, Liebman struck a CHP Cessna 206 multiple times with a powerful green laser while it was flying .
This case is the product of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Highway Patrol, and Federal Air Marshals with the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Jean M. Hobler is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Liebman faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. The actual sentence, however, will 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.
From a U.S. Department of Justice press release
According to WABC, on Saturday April 17, a JetBlue flight originating in Portland, Maine was landing at JFK “when suddenly the pilots were distracted by an intensely bright green laser”. According to tower transcripts, the pilot said the laser was “directly pointing right at us. I saw the flash to the left looked, looked out left as I was landing. Put my head down, put up the sun screen.” [Note: This is a good reaction. Although the pilot initially looked towards the light, the pilot then took steps to reduce the light’s effect.]
Ben Philip Vout targeted a KLM flight coming in to land with 40 passengers at Durham Tees Valley Airport in northeast England, in August 2008. He also shone the device at a police helicopter sent to investigate.
Vout, 19, and from Heslop Street in Thornaby had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
Teesside Crown Court was told that the KLM flight had to be landed by the co-pilot.
From BBC News
Hosseiny, originally from Afghanistan, was in the UK after seeking asylum in 2002. As a result of his laser assault and subsequent convictions, he was served with a deportation notice.
In the March 2009 incident, the airplane pilot said he had a "momentary loss of concentration" due to a "dazzling green light" as the plane was landing at Cardiff (Wales) airport. The trial judge stated that "The consequences of such an action could have been catastrophic. Fortunately there was no catastrophe and the aircraft landed safety."
More details from BBC News.
2 1/2 years in prison for laser interference with pilots
Dana Christian Welch, 37, of Orange, California was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Welch also is to serve three years of supervised release after completing his prison term, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherilyn Peace Garnett said.Click to read more...
CTV Toronto reported that "[t]his is estimated to be the sixth such incident in Toronto in the past year. About a dozen have occurred in Ontario, and more than 30 across Canada."
More details from CTV.ca
Dennis Smoke, 45, was arrested with Levi Milstead, 19. Each is charged with two counts of pointing a laser at an aircraft and one count each possession of criminal tools. Conviction carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
More details from The Columbus Dispatch
The helicopter pilot was quoted as saying that if you shine laser pointers at pilots, "there's a good chance you're going to wind up in jail. At the worst, you could bring down an aircraft and kill a lot of people."
Full story from The Buffalo News
Air traffic controllers had to close one flight approach late on Friday, after up to four people targeted planes with lasers in an apparently co-ordinated attack. Pilots reported a number of green lasers were trained on their planes for about 15 minutes, from 10.30pm (AEDT). The lasers appeared to have originated from the Bexley area, in south-western Sydney.
"This was the worst attack in our experience," Air Services Australia spokesman Bryan Nicholson has told Fairfax News. "It was described by the pilots as a cluster attack which implies some sort of co-ordination or organisation."
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said such laser attacks on planes were increasing in frequency. "There are five to six reports every week around Australia," CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told Fairfax. "It is extremely dangerous as it can temporarily blind a pilot or distract them as they are coming in to land."
NSW Police Minister David Campbell vowed to change the law to classify powerful laser beams as illegal weapons. "These gutless and cowardly attacks have to be stopped," he said. "I am preparing a proposal to cabinet to consider making these items a prohibited weapon."
The maximum penalty for shining a laser at a plane is two years in jail.
From the Herald Sun and the Sydney Morning Herald
*2011 UPDATE: Investigation by US and Australian officials revealed that the "cluster attack" was caused by youths, riding their bicycles on a golf course at night, who stopped and took the occasion to illuminate landing aircraft. It might be noted that their local community had a history of acrimony directed at the airport authority due to the construction of a new runway which caused more flights over their residential area. In a Feb. 2011 presentation to the SAE G10T group, attended by LaserPointerSafety.com, FAA flight standards liaison Patrick Hempen said the truth about Sydney has not caught up with the news stories. “The attacks are usually spontaneous in nature, perpetrated by careless or malicious persons.” Hempen also investigated several laser events in the Mideast and found many of the so-called "deliberate attacks" to be similar; they were “events perpetrated by youths, in a party-like atmosphere, without care or knowledge of the havoc that they were causing.”
The acting U.S. Attorney, Larry Brown, stated in a press release “Federal authorities have recognized lasing of aircraft as an increasingly serious problem and have formed a working group to investigate and prosecute offenders. This is because the focused beams of a laser remain powerful even at a long distance and can expose pilots to radiation [light] levels above those considered to be flight safe. Brief exposure to even a relatively low-powered laser beam can cause discomfort and temporary visual impairments, such as glare, flash blind, and afterimages."Click to read more...
All the planes were targeted during a 20-minute period Sunday night, and all landed safely. But the incident led to pilots simultaneously trying to avoid being temporarily blinded by the light while trying to help authorities pinpoint its source, believed to be about a mile north of the airport.
Air traffic controllers continuously cautioned pilots about the light during the episode, which lasted from 7:10 to 7:30 p.m. PT.
A pilot reported the source to be a block and a half west of an interstate. Airport authorities said they conducted two searches of the area but did not find the culprit.
Officials note that it is a federal crime to point a laser light at an aircraft, and pilots are required to report encounters with laser lights. Officials fear that the lights could cause an accident by blinding pilots or otherwise affecting their night vision.
The FBI has “made it a priority” to investigate laser incidents, according to CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve.. MSNBC reports that the Transportation Safety Administration is also involved in the investigation.
Additional details from CNN and MSNBC. A CNN video of the news story “Lasers aimed at planes”, reported by Jeanne Meserve, is also available from CNN’s website. The video adds information on the FBI which is not in the website print version.
UPDATE: On March 6 2009, police arrested Christopher C. Saunders on the felony charge of first-degree unlawful discharge of a laser. His apartment is in Burien, near the area where the lasers originated. According to the Seattle Times, Saunders told police he was “pointing the light in multiple directions outside a party and may have layered a plane.” From KOMOnews and the Seattle Times.
UPDATE #2: A March 25 2009 AP story stated that Saunders had been released with no charges filed against him. The story also noted that a laser was aimed at an Alaska Airlines flight landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The source of the laser was “near the source of previous laser reports.” From SignOnSanDiego quoting KOMO television.
The pilot has told a Tahiti newspaper that he was blinded as the plane with its 290 passengers on board was at an altitude of 3,000 feet and he was about to finalise the approach to the airport.
The pilot has lodged a formal complaint and police say they have established that the laser was directed from the port area.
A similar incident occurred last year  when young people pointed lasers at a plane from near the runway.
From Radio New Zealand International
Police, who were alerted by the pilot after he was blinded, say the man was unaware of the risks his action posed.
There is no regulation in French Polynesia on the sale of lasers which can be beamed up to 17 kilometers.
From Radio New Zealand International
David W. Banach, 38, of Parsippany NJ is the first person charged in a rash of recent incidents in which lasers were shined at aircraft around the country. Justice Department officials said they do not suspect terrorism in any of the cases, but said Banach's arrest shows how seriously they take the matter.
Sentenced to two years probation; serious charges dropped
"We need to send a clear message to the public that there is no harmless mischief when it comes to airplanes," said Christopher Christie, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey.
Banach made an initial appearance in court Tuesday and was released on $100,000 bond. He was charged with interfering with a flight crew under the USA Patriot Act. He also was charged with lying to federal officers. The charges carry a maximum jail sentence of 25 years.
"In our environment at night where there's little light, if we're temporarily blinded, we may lose our ability to see the ground, see the instruments,” said Trooper Jonathan Aames.
The troopers on board the airplane are usually looking for speeders or drunk drivers, but last Saturday night, they used their infrared cameras to find Tony Rhodes, the person 2,000 feet below who was flashing their plane with the green laser pointer.Click to read more...