A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

News: Aviation incidents


This webpage has a chronological list of selected aviation-related laser pointer incidents. We also have news pages for non-aviation incidents, and for all other laser pointer news (includes overall statistics about incidents, new laws and regulations, and safety warnings and publications). In addition, the What’s new at the website page lists major changes, updates, and additions to LaserPointerSafety.com.

We sometimes add older news items; since the list is chronological, items new to this page won’t always appear at the top. You may want to scroll down to see if there are new items since the last time you visited.

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US: Texas police pilot has pain in eyes for two days after laser is aimed at his helicopter

On November 1 2018, a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter pilot searching for a murder suspect was illuminated in the right eye by a green laser. This caused temporary blindness and a throbbing pain, which in turn caused the search to be aborted. Instead, the pilot and the tactical officer searched for and found the person aiming the laser. The pain continued for approximately two days.

Ground officers arrested 42-year-old Sherryol Elton Clack, Jr. with a green laser pointer.

Two weeks later, FBI agents interviewed Clack. He said his friend had purchased the laser pointer and claimed the light could reach the moon. Clack then decided to aim it at a helicopter. He said this was done out of "stupidity" and he did not intend to harm anyone.


Sherryol Elton Clack, Jr.


On February 15 2019 Clack took a plea deal for the offense of Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft. Details of the deal were not available. If the judge approves the plea deal, Clack will be sentenced later to a term of up to five years in prison.

From EverythingLubbock.com

Australia: Charges for Winchelsea man who aimed laser at police helicopter

A Winchelsea (Victoria) man was arrested in the early morning hours of January 31 2019 for aiming a laser pointer at a police helicopter several times as it flew over Geelong.

The 32-year-old will be charged with possessing and using a prohibited weapon, reckless conduct endangering life, and interfering with crew of an aircraft.

From Bay 93.9 News

Australia: Doctor in air ambulance dazzled by laser; pilot not affected

A doctor who was flying on an air ambulance plane was briefly dazzled by laser light about 10 minutes after takeoff. The January 30 2019 incident occurred to Dr. Robert Smithers, who was flying from Launceton to Devonport, in Tasmania.

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

UK: Police looking for perpetrator(s) of six aircraft lasing incidents

Thames Valley Police are asking for the public's help in finding a person or persons who aimed a high-powered green laser at civilian and military police aircraft flying over West Berkshire.

In a January 29 2019 appeal, police said they are asking for witnesses of past laser events, as well as to notify police if they become aware of a current laser aimed at aircraft so officers can respond.

The six past incidents of concern are:

  • At 7.30pm on 24 October 2018 when two military Apaches flying together near Enborne were targeted.
  • At 6.45pm on 30 November 2018 a pilot reported a green laser being shone approximately five miles west of Newbury.
  • At 5.45pm on 12 December 2018 a laser was shone at a military Apache helicopter traveling over Marsh Benham
  • At 5.35pm on 12 December 2018 a laser strike took place against a plane in the Welford area
  • At 5.45pm on 8 January 2019 a report was received that a laser was shone at aircraft flying over Newbury
  • At 5.50pm on 9 January 2019 at a civilian helicopter in the vicinity of Newbury Racecourse

A police spokesperson said "We are keeping an open mind as to whether any of the incidents are linked."

From the Thames Valley Police

US: Jury deadlocked on case of laser aimed at police helicopter

A San Diego Superior Court jury could not agree to convict Robert Louis Silva, Jr. on a felony charge of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft.

On March 20 2018 a police helicopter was illuminated by a purple laser beam for about one minute. The pilot had eye irritation and put on night vision goggles. Silva, 33, was located on Fiesta Island and was arrested.

At trial, Silva told the jury he thought he was aiming at a drone piloted by a friend, and stopped when he realized he was instead aiming at a helicopter.

Prosecutors pointed out the difference between the helicopter and a drone, saying "He knew what he was doing. It was intentional. He didn't think he'd get found."

Silva's attorney noted that the helicopter was four miles away and thus looked smaller. She said "malicious intent" was required to convict, and that Silva did not have any intent to harm. She said "he profusely and repeatedly apologized" to police during his arrest, and that police did not go to look for the drone operator.

The jury deadlocked after four hours of deliberation on January 16 2019. Nine jurors voted to acquit and the remaining three jurors voted to convict.

The judge declared a mistrial and ordered Silva to return in late January to schedule dates for a possible re-trial. Silva remains free on $25,000 bond.

From sdnews.com

UK: Police search interrupted by laser illumination; man arrested

A National Police Air Service helicopter looking for a missing person in Hatfield on November 4 2018 had the search interrupted when a laser was aimed at the aircraft. Police described it as a "persistent laser attack."

A 30-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of recklessly endangering an aircraft, and the laser was recovered by Welwyn Hatfield South Police.

The subject of the search was eventually found in woodlands.

From the Welwyn Hatfield Times and BOB FM.

Solomon Islands: Increasing numbers of laser incidents

The Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands is concerned about increased reports of green laser illuminations of pilots taking off or landing at Honiara International Airport on Guadalcanal Island. In a November 5 2018 statement, CAASI said there have been "a number of laser strikes," with the most recent on October 28 2018.

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.

From SIBConline.com

US: Columbus Ohio man indicted for aiming laser at police, Southwest flight

A Columbus, Ohio, man was indicted August 29 2018 for aiming a laser at police helicopters and a Southwest Airlines flight that was trying to land at John Glenn International Airport.

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.

From NBC4i.com

US & Middle East (including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan): U.S. military pilots illuminated by lasers

From January through July 2018, American military pilots reported more than 350 laser illuminations in the Middle East, predominantly in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an August 17 2018 article in the Wall Street Journal.

A spokesperson for U.S. Central Command told the paper that while the source is “exceedingly difficult to pinpoint … many likely come from insurgents and terrorist organizations.”

U.S. crews had no permanent injuries although minor effects such as short-term vision impairment and headaches were reported.

The Journal article did not indicate whether the laser illuminations were being coordinated, or if the perpetrators were using lasers of a different type or power than those commonly involved in illuminations of civilian aircraft outside of conflict zones.

Lasing rate comparison

For comparison with civil aviation, during the same January-July 2018 period American civilian pilots reported 3,182 laser illuminations to the Federal Aviation Administration. In Canada there were roughly 190 laser illuminations reported to Transport Canada, and in the U.K. there were roughly 500 laser illuminations reported to the Civil Aviation Authority.

The Middle East incidents appear to indicate a higher rate of lasing than two recent areas of concern recently disclosed by U.S. military:

  • In May 2018, a Pentagon spokesperson reported “between 2 and ten” lasers aimed at U.S. aircraft operating out of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.
  • From September 2017 to mid-June 2018, about two dozen aircraft in the East China Sea were illuminated by “smaller, commercial grade” laser pointers similar to those sold for pointing and playing with pets.

Laser incidents in the Middle East had been at about 700 in 2015, about 600 in 2016, and were at about 400 in 2017. At the current rate of about 50 per month in the first seven months of 2018, there would be about 600 incidents estimated for all of 2018.

From a Wall Street Journal article by reporter Gordon Lubold; the article is behind a paywall. A non-paywall (free) summary is at The Hill.
Click to read more...

New Zealand: Five recent incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft

Two Air New Zealand aircraft were targets of laser light on July 10 2018, as they were flying to Auckland Airport.

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.

Australia: 54-year-old arrested for aiming blue laser at police helicopter multiple times

A 56-year-old man was arrested for aiming a blue laser pointer four separate times at a police helicopter. The June 29 2018 incident took place in Oakford, an outer suburb of Perth, Western Australia.

The laser pointer was confiscated and the unnamed man was charged with “causing fear or alarm to the driver or pilot of a conveyance or others.” He will appear in court later in July 2018.

From Coastlive.com.au

US: UPDATED - Florida woman arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter. Knew it was wrong; charges later dropped.

A Florida woman has been arrested for aiming a green laser beam multiple times at a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on June 21 2018. The pilot received “immediate” medical attention and did not appear to be injured.

Jacqueline Robledo, 33, of Lake Worth, was arrested. She told officers she was aware that the laser light could cause blindness. She was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device and was held on $3,000 bond.

Jacqueline Robledo laser


From the Palm Beach Post, Tampa Bay Times and NBC-2.com

UPDATED August 12 2018 - Charges against Jacqueline Robledo were dropped on August 9 2018. There was no reason given. Robledo did not have any previous criminal history. From myPalmBeachPost.com

US: Texas woman arrested for aiming laser at airplanes landing at airport

A 46-year-old woman was arrested June 22 2018 for aiming a laser pointer at several aircraft coming in for a landing at McAllen International Airport in Texas.

Ruth Ann Hopp was ordered into temporary custody on June 25, pending a detention hearing. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

From the Brownsville Herald

US & East China Sea: US officials say lasers have targeted military pilots in the East China Sea

Pilots of U.S. military aircraft have reported that lasers were aimed at them from ships and shore locations around the East China Sea. From September 2017 to mid-June 2018, about two dozen aircraft saw the lasers, said to be from “smaller, commercial grade” laser pointers similar to those sold for pointing and playing with pets.

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.”

East_China_Sea_Map

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….”

US: Two California teens arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

Two 15-year-olds were arrested after aiming a laser beam, at least twice over a half hour, at an Anaheim (Calif.) Police Department helicopter.

On June 19 2018 at about 12:30 am, a green laser beam was aimed at the cockpit from an apartment building balcony. The crew could identify the apartment complex the beam came from, but not a specific unit.

At about 1 am, the helicopter cockpit was again illuminated by a laser beam. This time the crew could see from which unit the beam came. Ground officers then went to the apartment, where they handcuffed and arrested the 15-year-old males.

15-year-olds laser Anaheim
The teens are led down the apartment staircase to a waiting police car. They were later released to their parents.


A police department spokesperson called the incident “super dangerous” and very serious. There were no injuries reported to the helicopter crew.

From
MyNewsLA.com, the Orange County Register and ABC7.com

US: California man aims laser at motorists and sheriff's helicopter

A man aimed a green laser beam at motorists on Interstate 15 in Victorville, California, as well as aiming multiple times at a San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

The California Highway Patrol received a number of calls from motorists who saw or were illuminated by the laser light.

James Gilbert Trujillo, 33, was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft in the June 6 incident. He will appear in court June 11.

From the Victorville Daily Press and San Bernardino Sun. This news item was also filed under the Non-aviation incident news section.

Northern Ireland: Two years probation for second laser offense

Twenty-year-old Karl Barkley was sentenced June 8 2018 to two years probation for aiming a laser pen at a Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter hovering above a crowd at a football (soccer) match. Barkley had also previously been convicted in 2015 of the same crime, recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft, in addition to a criminal record of nine offenses.

The second offense occurred October 5 2017 during a World Cup qualifier game between Northern Ireland and Germany. The helicopter was monitoring the crowd at Windsor Park football ground when it was illuminated two times by laser light. The pilot could not fly by sight; he had to use instruments. The helicopter identified the laser as coming from a nearby home. Ground officers arrested Barkley while the helicopter retreated to the safety of Belfast City Airport.

At trial, it was noted that Barkley had a low IQ and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He was smoking marijuana in his bedroom at the time of the arrest.

The judge said a jail sentence “would not help society or prevent further offending.”

During his two-year probation, Barkley would receive help with his drug problems. The judge did note that if Barkley violated probation he “will go straight to prison.”

In 2015, Barkley’s laser conviction was dealt with by a youth diversion conference because of his age at the time.

From BBC News, Belfast Telegraph and Newsletter.co.uk

US: Kansas City woman arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

An unnamed Kansas City woman was arrested for a May 5 2018 incident where a laser beam was aimed at a Kansas City police helicopter.

The pilot was temporarily disoriented. He put on night vision goggles to prevent laser light from directly entering his eyes. He was able to direct officers on the ground to the woman, who was inside a car with a “long black cylinder-shaped laser pointer in her hand.”

Federal charges were filed against the 31-year-old woman.

According to KSHB, “Kansas City Police said the pilot flying the KCPD helicopter last month [May 2018] had a temporary deficiency in his vision and is currently recovering. The pilot is expected to return and fly again.”

The FBI said there were 110 cases of pilots reporting laser illuminations in Kansas City during 2017.

In January 2017, Jordan Clarence Rogers was sentenced to three years in federal prison for an October 2013 incident where he aimed a laser at a Kansas City police helicopter multiple times, resulting in several hours of eye strain for the pilot.

From June 1 2018 reports in the Kansas City Star, KSHB.com and Fox4KC.com

UK: Salford man aims laser at police helicopter for 10 minutes

A Salford (Greater Manchester) man aimed a laser pen at a police helicopter for up to 10 minutes, according to testimony in court on May 24 2018. The pilot was dazzled and “had to take action to avoid losing his vision.”

The pilot directed police on the ground to the home of Darren Kenyon, 48. He told them he had been “playing” with the laser by pointing it out his bathroom window. The laser had been purchased by one of his six children while on holiday.

Darren Kenyon laser
Darren Kenyon


In Manchester magistrates court, Kenyon pleaded guilty to reckless behavior likely to endanger an aircraft. He will be sentenced at crown court.

From The Sun

New Zealand: Multiple laser illuminations of rescue helicopters

A Northland rescue helicopter was illuminated multiple times on May 20 2018, first while going to Auckland Hospital and again on their return flight. The light came from a rural house identified by one of the pilots. Officers visited the house but found no laser and made no arrest.

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority said there has been eight reports of lasers illuminating Northland Emergency Services Trust helicopters in the timespan 2016-2018.

The Possession of High-Power Laser Pointers Amendment Act 2014 makes it illegal for anyone to have a high-power laser pointer in a public place. Offenders face a maximum three months in prison or a $2000 fine.

Under the Crimes Act, people found guilty of "endangering transport" can face up to 14 years' imprisonment.

From the New Zealand Herald Northern Advocate

UK: Six laser pen incidents in two evenings at Birmingham Airport

West Midlands police are investigating six incidents where laser pens illuminated planes landing at Birmingham Airport on May 20 and 21, 2018, between 9 pm and midnight.

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

UK: Police helicopter repeatedly illuminated by laser while searching for missing woman

A National Police Air Service helicopter was repeatedly illuminated by a green laser, while searching on May 7 2018 for a 73-year-old woman who was reported missing.

The NPAS crew contacted police in Preston, Lancashire who located and “detained the offender.” It is not known how much the persistent laser light disrupted the search for the woman. She was later found by a member of the public after a social media alert was posted.

From the Lancashire Post


US: Student lands safely despite windscreen blocked by oil

A 20-year-old student pilot landed safely at Daytona Beach International Airport on April 26 2018, despite his forward windscreen vision being blocked.

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.

China: Pentagon made "groundless accusations" about Djibouti lasers

The Chinese Defense Ministry, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry on May 4 2018 denied that it was aiming lasers at U.S. aircraft based in Djibouti.

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

In a May 3 2018 press conference, a Pentagon spokesperson said that China has aimed lasers at American aircraft at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti between two and 10 times. On one occasion, this caused two minor, unspecified injuries with no long-term effects to pilots of an Air Force C-130 Hercules.

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.

Pic 2018-05-03 at 7.51.55 PM

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.

US: Omaha man wanted on warrant aims laser at police helicopter; gets arrested

A 40-year-old man who had an outstanding warrant for his arrest aimed a green laser beam at an Omaha police helicopter on April 22 2018 — leading to his arrest.

The unnamed man was a passenger in a car when he aimed at the helicopter. The aircrew radioed to a ground unit that stopped the car. The man told the officer that a misdemeanor warrant had been issued for his arrest.

He was charged on the warrant and for violating his probation. Apparently, he was not charged for the laser offense.

From the Omaha World-Herald

American Samoa: Two laser beams aimed at passenger airplane

Two laser beams were aimed —apparently simultaneously — at a Hawaiian Airline flight while landing at Pago Pago airport in American Samoa.

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

US: Eye damage to Coast Guard crewmember

A Coast Guard helicopter crew member suffered eye damage when he was stuck by green laser lights while training in Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, in Washington state.

He and two other members of the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew landed safely after being hit by a laser several times at about 9 p.m. March 21 2018.

The aircrew conducted visual acuity tests with the duty corpsman. After consultation with the flight surgeon, two of the three aircrew members were medically grounded until they received further examination by an optometrist.

One of the crew members was found to have suffered eye damage and was grounded for seven days. The crew member will be reevaluated this week. The other crew member was grounded for two hours but has since returned to duty.

Because members of the crew were medically grounded, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Sector Columbia River in Warrenton, Ore., became responsible for covering the Port Angeles station’s area of responsibility until Port Angeles aircrews were medically cleared.

From the Peninsula Daily News and a U.S. Coast Guard press release

US: Man shines laser near Sea-Tac Airport and at police helicopter: "Didn't think it was a big deal"

A 29-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser at aircraft landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and at a King’s County sheriff’s helicopter.

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.

US: Pennsylvania man gets 1.5 to 3 years in prison for aiming laser at MedEvac helicopter

A 23-year-old Pottsville, Pennsylvania man was sentenced March 15 2018 to 1-1/2 to 3 years in state prison for aiming a laser at a medical helicopter.

On August 15, 2017, the Lehigh Valley Health Network MedEvac 7 was preparing to land when it was illuminated by a green laser beam. There was no injury to the crew. Timothy M. Ebert was arrested and charged with risking a catastrophe, possessing an instrument of crime, and three counts of recklessly endangering another person.

Timothy Ebert laser
Timothy M. Ebert

Ebert pleaded guilty to the laser-related charges, plus charges in five other cases including driving under the influence, fleeing or eluding police, driving under suspension, driving an unregistered vehicle, driving the wrong way, possession of a prohibited offensive weapon, possession of a small amount of marijuana, two counts each of delivery of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, and three counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

In addition to serving prison time, Ebert must pay costs, $1300 in fines, $500 to the Substance Abuse Education Fund, perform 10 hours of community service and submit a DNA sample to authorities.

From the Republican Herald

US: California man arrested at car "sideshow" for aiming laser at CHP helicopter

A 23-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter during a January 28 2018 “sideshow” gathering of car enthusiasts watching tricks and stunts.

The sideshow took place at about 2 a.m. in Oakland, with about 200 cars present. Fireworks were shot into the air and there were reports of gunfire.

2018 01 28 Oakland sideshow CHP laser
View from the helicopter’s infrared camera, showing cars doing doughnuts, and spectators


A green laser beam was aimed at a CHP helicopter several times. The crew was able to direct ground officers to a white sedan, where the 23-year-old was arrested and faces “several state and federal felony charges.”

From KVTU.com. See also this story about lasers being aimed into the crowd at a December 2017 Oakland sideshow.

India: Private rooftop parties blamed for Kolkata laser illuminations of pilots

Private rooftop parties are being blamed for pilot-blinding laser incidents in Kolkata. The beams come from apartment buildings located along the flight path to the airport.

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.

US: Teen arrested for aiming laser at Oklahoma City police helicopter

On December 26 2017, the Oklahoma City Police Department helicopter was illuminated by a green laser beam, three times.

The crew directed ground officers to a home where 19-year-old Iban Balderas was arrested. He was charged with violating Oklahoma’s Laser Safety Act.

From KFOR.com

US: Multiple laser strikes over Oakland

Seven incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft landing at Oakland International Airport were reported within a few days in mid-December 2017. The laser strikes appeared to be targeting small private planes. Authorities are searching for the source.

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).

2017-12-17 laser aimed at police helicopter Oakland
Video from the CHP helicopter shows a suspect repeatedly and deliberately aiming the laser


From CBS SF Bay Area and NBC Bay Area

UK: Multiple aircraft hit by laser light while landing at Gatwick

Five aircraft approaching London’s Gatwick Airport on December 18 2017 reported that green laser light was aimed at them. Four of the incidents occurred between 7:00 and 8:00 pm; the fifth occurred around midnight.

The illuminations occurred as they flew over Ashdown Forest, open heathland 30 miles south of London. Police said “We believe the person or persons responsible were located in the Hartfield area.” They asked for anyone with information to call them.

From Crawley News 24

US: Teen arrested in Florida for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter

A 15-year-old boy from Bradenton Florida was arrested for aiming a green laser beam multiple times at a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on December 12 2017.

The helicopter crew directed ground officers to a home in Bradenton, where the teen was arrested. According to a sheriff’s office spokesperson, the boy was not able to explain why he pointed the laser at the helicopter.

The unnamed youth was taken to the Juvenile Booking Facility.

From the Bradenton Herald

US: California man indicted for hitting two helicopters with laser beam

A 31-year-old man from Turlock, California, was indicted December 14 2017 on two federal counts of aiming a laser beam at aircraft.

On October 22 2017, Roger Shane John struck a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department helicopter five to six times with a green laser, causing visual interference and disrupting an air support response to a domestic violence call.

At around the same time, John also aimed a laser 3-4 times at CalStar 12, an emergency medical helicopter.

Conviction would result in jail time of up to five years, and a fine of up to $250,000.

John had numerous prior run-ins with law enforcement, including convictions for domestic violence, identity theft, possession of a controlled substance for sale, being a felon in possession of a firearm and making threats with intent to terrorize.

Roger Shane John laser Turlock Calif
Roger Shane John

From the Modesto Bee and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California

US: NY man who antagonized police, denies aiming laser at helicopter

A Suffolk County (NY) man who previously admitted to damaging red light cameras, was accused by police of aiming a laser beam at a police helicopter. The man, dubbed “the Red Light Robin Hood” by the press, denied the accusation.

Stephen Ruth said he was not home at the time, that no one aimed a laser beam from his property, and that police are targeting him. “I find it very suspicious the commissioner would accuse me when the same day I attempted to form an anti-corruption taskforce in the county.”

Police said they “have no doubt the laser came from that home” in the December 6 2017 incident. The helicopter had been looking for a missing teenager.

Ruth had previously mis-aimed red light cameras, and cut wiring in about 20-30 systems, to protest what he called an unsafe money grab by Suffolk County. He said only a jury could give him a fair hearing.

From CBS New York, laser story and earlier story on red light damage.

US: Helicopter pilot lands; detains laser pointer suspect

Officers in a helicopter flying for the Pasco (Florida) County Sheriff’s Office were illuminated by laser light on December 5 2017. The pilot landed the aircraft in an empty parking lot, walked to the suspect’s home, and detained him.

Pilot Stephen Bowman was assisting with a situation involving a barricaded suspect, when he was hit by the laser at around 10:50 pm. Bowman told Bay News 9, “It blinded us temporarily for a couple of seconds — extremely painful. Once we came to, we saw a couple more flashes from the laser." Examination of video from the helicopter showed about 10 flashes.

Bowman began tracking the suspect. After landing the helicopter and going to the suspect’s home, there he detained Ryan Fluke, 27.

Bowman said Fluke was “a little confused”, asking where the helicopter was. Fluke also told Bowman he was doing it for fun. Fluke did not realize that lasers could travel a long distance (the helicopter was about 800 feet in the air). Fluke apologized to Bowman.

Fluke was charged with a third-degree felony, misuse of laser lighting devices. He had 12 previous arrests in Pasco County.

Ryan Fluke laser squashed80pct
Ryan Fluke

From the Bradenton Herald and ABC News, whose story includes police video of what the laser looked like from the air.

Canada: Pilot has blurred vision after green laser strike

The first officer of an Air Canada flight on approach to Toronto Pearson International Airport was illuminated by green laser light. The first officer suffered “blurred vision and discomfort lasting for 10-15 minutes” according to a Transport Canada report.

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

US: Some reports of Christmas laser lights causing interference

There have been 13 incidents reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that involve, or possibly involve, laser Christmas lights, from November 20 through December 2 2017.

The first reported Christmas-related incident of 2017 came on November 20. As of this writing, December 2 is the last date for which incident information is available.

There are 13 days from November 20 through December 2. With 13 potential Christmas-related incidents, that is a rate of one Christmas incident per day.

In the previous 323 days of 2017, from January 1 through November 19, there were 5,734 incidents or 17.8 per day.

So Christmas lights appear to be adding one extra incident per day (a 5.6% increase), early in the holiday season.

This story will be updated as additional December incident data becomes available.

Based on FAA incident reporting. See our page on Christmas holiday laser projectors for more information, plus these pages about holiday lighting reports here and here.

US: UPDATED - California man aims laser at Border Patrol helicopter

A man who claimed he was aiming a laser at a drone, was charged on November 30 2017 with aiming a laser pointer into a Border Patrol helicopter flying near Chula Vista, California.

On August 19 2017, the helicopter was flying over power lines when the cockpit lit up briefly with laser light. The helicopter spotter had to close his eyes. The pilot then aimed the aircraft’s searchlight down at the source of the laser beam, a person in a Jeep Patriot. The laser continued to be aimed at the helicopter.

Chula Vista police stopped the SUV. 27-year-old Michael Angelo Ramirez, a passenger, told them he shined the laser at what he thought was a drone, and the drone aimed a light back. He said he turned off the laser once he realized he had hit a helicopter.

However, the driver of the Jeep told police that it was clear the aircraft was a helicopter and not a drone.

Ramirez was taken into custody and later was released. After his arraignment on November 30 2017 he was taken back into custody. Ramirez faces up to five years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine.

From the Times of San Diego

UPDATED December 28 2017 - Ramirez pleaded guilty to one charge of aiming at an aircraft, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

US: Two years probation, $2000 fine for Arizona man who lased sheriff department's plane

An Arizona man was sentenced November 28 2017 to two years probation, and was fined $2,000 for aiming a laser pointer at a Pima County Sheriff’s Department aircraft on April 10 2017.

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

US: Florida man arrested for aiming at sheriff's office helicopter

A 35-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser pointer at a Hernando County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office helicopter on November 26 2017.

The aircraft was searching for a missing child at the time. The pilot and tactical flight officer were illuminated five times by the laser. It affected their ability to see and to give updated locations of the child, whom they had spotted shortly before the laser strikes.

Eric D. Harper was arrested at his home. Harper admitted to aiming at the aircraft. He told the arresting officers that he was sorry and he was unaware aiming a laser at an aircraft was illegal.

Eric D Harper laser
Eric D. Harper

From the Tampa Bay Times and ABC Action News

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Both stories quoted the sheriff’s office as saying that viewing a laser from infrared equipment such as FLIR cameras can severely damage the human eye.” This is not true. The laser may cause the FLIR viewing screen to “bloom” to full white or full green, which is very bright and of course can interfere with vision. The laser might even damage the FLIR sensor. But the FLIR sensor stops the laser beam itself — no laser light can enter the eye, and thus no eye damage could occur.

UK: 20 week jail sentence for Leicester man who aimed a laser at a police helicopter

Neil Stephen Wright, 35, was sentenced to 20 weeks in jail for aiming a laser at a police helicopter multiple times on October 10 2017. Eighteen of the weeks were for the laser incident, with an additional two weeks for breaching an earlier suspended sentence relating to a battery charge.

The incident occurred October 10 2017. The pilot was dazzled and had to abandon his mission. Wright was found at his home on Croyland Green, Thurnby Lodge, Leicester. He admitted to aiming the laser at the aircraft while “larking around.”

Sentencing occurred around November 24 2017.

Wright’s defender said Wright’s actions were “thoughtless stupidity,” that he “didn’t realize his behavior was a criminal offence,” and that he was “genuinely remorseful.”

The judge told Wright “The seriousness of this offence is blindingly obvious. You could have caused the death of those people performing a public duty and, as it was over a residential area, there could have been further fatalities."

Neil Stephen Wright laser
Neil Stephen Wright

From BBC News and the Leicester Mercury

Micronesia: First FSM prosecution for aiming a laser at an aircraft

On or around November 21 2017, Isak Rawit became the first person to be prosecuted in the Federated States of Micronesia for aiming a laser at an aircraft.

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

India: 24 laser incidents in eight months at Mumbai airport

From January until September 2017, there were 24 reports of lasers being aimed at aircraft flying to or from Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.

In 2015 there were 24 laser reports in the entire year, and 15 reports during 2016.

In addition to the laser hazards, pilots also reported three drones and two sky lanterns during the first nine months of 2017.

Pilots report cases of laser attacks and lanterns to the Air Traffic Control (ATC), which conveys the information to the airport operator, who reports the incident to the local police. However, policemen said there is no specific law or government notification to deal with such cases.

A police official on condition of anonymity said, “In such complaints, we first find out the reason the light was flashed. If the laser light was coming from a wedding ceremony or any other function, then as a preventive action, we alert concerned people and sensitise them about its dangerous effects on aircraft. However, nothing can be done legally as there is no law under which we can produce anyone in court.”

From the Hindustan Times and Times of India. About a month later, Kolkata reported similar problems with rooftop parties using lasers under the flight path of aircraft.

US: Oregon pilot lased eight times in two years; goes door-to-door to find perpetrators

A pilot who flies around Grants Pass and Merlin (Oregon) has reported eight laser incidents in two years.

According to a local airport manager, Salvador Corona “flies at night more than most pilots, and is very upset about the targeting. He knocked on doors and talked to people after he suspected someone was using a laser in a neighborhood near the airport in Merlin. He said he’s going to buy a pair of protective glasses to wear while flying…”

From the Grants Pass Daily Courier via the Register-Guard

US: Man aims laser from car at police helicopter, evades arrest, crashes

A man in a moving car aimed a green laser beam at a Fresno (Calif.) Police Department helicopter. A passenger in the car said the man, Michael Vincent Alvarez, did it because he “thought it would be funny to point a laser at the helicopter.” Alvarez then led officers on a high-speed chase which ended when the car crashed into a median; he suffered minor injuries.

At about 12:45 am on October 22 2017, the helicopter was providing support to ground units responding to a domestic violence disturbance when it was continuously illuminated by a green laser beam. The tactical flight officer was hit three times in the eyes.

The pilot had momentary flashblindness and lost night vision. The tactical flight officer had watering eyes, discomfort and pain. There was no reported eye injury.

The helicopter broke off from its mission to pursue the laser perpetrator.

The beam came from the driver’s side of a car traveling north on Highway 99 in Fresno. Ground officers pursued Alvarez’s car, which began a high-speed chase. Twice during the chase Alvarez stopped to drop off passengers. The car eventually crashed into a median. Alvarez got out and ran towards neighboring homes. He was apprehended by officers in the backyard of a home after a short foot pursuit.

Alvarez had minor injuries from the crash and was taken to a hospital for treatment. At the hospital, a baggie was found with substances suspected to be marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Inside the car’s driver side door pocket police found a laser marked “Laser 303” with a green multi-dot beam (perhaps a diffraction grating making a star-field-like pattern) and a danger label.

After an FBI investigation, Alvarez was charged with violating federal law by knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft or its flight path. In addition, there were two previous felony warrants out for Alvarez’s arrest on other, unspecified charges.

From a report by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica. The criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California is here.

UPDATED May 7 2018 — Michael Vincent Alvarez was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the October 22 2017 incident. From KMPH and the Fresno Bee.