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.
Coast Guard seeks tips, information on recent laser attacks on helicopters
MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — The Coast Guard is asking the public for tips or information regarding recent laser attacks aimed against rescue helicopter crews.
The latest attack occurred Tuesday evening near the Arcata-Eureka airport as an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay was conducting a practice instrument approach.
The helicopter was southeast of the airport when a green laser coming from a wooded area about three miles east of McKinleyville, was shined directly at the aircraft. The pilots quickly landed so the crew members could receive medical checkups.
“Laser attacks against aircraft are a crime because of the danger they present to aviators and the public," said Capt. Greg Fuller, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay. “Our aircrews put their own lives on the line on a daily basis to save others in distress. These laser incidents significantly impact our ability to respond and we ask the public's help in identifying the sources.”
It is a federal crime, as well as a violation of California state law to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. Punishment under state law ranges from civil penalties of $1,000 up to $2,000 and three years imprisonment. Federal law allows for a punishment of imprisonment of up to five years.
Lasers, including common laser pointers, can cause glare, flash blindness, temporary loss of night vision and more permanent damage such as blind spots, cataracts and partial or total loss of visual acuity.
The Coast Guard encourages anyone who sees someone lasing any aircraft to call 911 to report the crime immediately.
Information about some California aviation laser incidents, including arrests and convictions of laser aircraft attackers, can be seen here: http://laserpointersafety.com/news/news/aviation-incidents_files/tag-california.php
The helicopter was searching for a violent robbery suspect. The crew was forced to stop the search in order to identify the source of the laser.
Laser light from a direct hit overwhelms the camera lens for one frame of the CHP helicopter’s surveillance
A second later, the suspect can be seen (left) walking with what appears to be a child (right) in the middle of the road.
The CHP crew directed ground officers to a San Leandro house where the woman was arrested and a laser pointer was confiscated. CHP said the woman had other lasers in her home as well.
The FBI is investigating.
From the Mercury News and KRON (link to video is here)
One pilot said “We want this to stop before we have to dig one of our aircraft out of the beach…. Incidents like this are happening more and more frequently, three different occasions recently, and that’s just our pilots – there are many more flying clubs and school at Blackpool Airport.”
An incident on September 22 2017 happened to a pilot flying prior to a fireworks competition. A laser came from the crowd, deliberately tracking the aircraft. He said “The whole cockpit lit up, it was a real shock.”
Three frames from the Sept. 22 incident show the laser, barely visible in the first photo, lighting up the cockpit window in the second photo and nearly obscuring all ground lights in the third photo.
Blackpool Airport is in Lancashire, in northwest England. There do not appear to be any suspects or arrests in the recent incidents.
From The Gazette
According to a police Facebook post, “the officers were temporarily blinded by the laser, but there were no serious injuries.” The source of the laser was traced to a vehicle on Manassas Gap Court in Centreville.
Carlos Zapata Rivero was charged with shining a light/laser pointer at an aircraft, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
From WJLA TV and FairfaxNews
Officers on the ground had seen a red laser beam that appeared to be attached to a firearm. The helicopter was sent to investigate. A detective in the helicopter testified that he saw a bright red light which was pointed at the aircraft numerous times. The detective said he was worried for the pilot’s vision, and also that the laser could be attached to a weapon.
He radioed a description of the suspect to ground officers. Based on his appearance, officers approached Javonnie Silburn, then approximately 19 years old. They asked if he had a laser; Silburn said yes and showed them a device that had both an LED light and a red laser beam. He was arrested on a charge of endangering an aircraft.
Later Silburn told police that he did not do it, that it was another man.
Prior to the trial, Silburn attempted to plead guilty to shining the laser at the helicopter one time. But the Crown did not accept the plea due to the multiple times the laser was directed at the aircraft.
The endangerment charge was apparently dropped. Silburn, now 21, is being tried on a charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior within the sight or hearing of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.
Under cross-examination on the first day of the trial, the detective admitted he could not say definitely that Silburn was the person with the laser, only that he identified a man with an Afro hairstyle and short pants.
According to the Cayman Compass, there was a separate laser incident in November 2015 involving police aircraft.
From stories in the Cayman Compass by Carol Winker. (August 31 2017 story about trial being set, Sept. 13 2017 story about initial court proceedings, Sept. 14 2017 story about trial being delayed for a few days).
UPDATED September 28 2017 - The trial was delayed until October 11 2017.
The incident happened around 11 pm on August 8 2017. An off-duty police officer happened to see the pair on a hotel balcony in Torremolinos, a coastal resort town about 13 miles south of the airport.
Photo from Spanish police showing laser light coming from a balcony
Two laser pens were seized:
Pilots of at least three commercial aircraft had complained about being dazzled with green light as they prepared to land.
While the British father and son were not arrested, Spanish National Police called it a “very serious violation” and said the fine could be from €30,000 to €600,000 (USD $35,000 to $600,000).
From Sky News, the Daily Mail and ITV News
They notified ground officers who located the vehicle, found a laser inside, and arrested 18-year-old Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero, aka Abrahan Nasser. The officers also found marijuana in the vehicle.
Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero
Romero was charged with pointing a laser at an aircraft — a felony — and with possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce. Records show Romero had previously been arrested for marijuana possession, for speeding, and for driving without a license.
Since January 2017 there have been 19 incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration of lasers being pointed at aircraft in the Charlotte area.
From the Charlotte Observer and WSCO TV
The officers told the child and the child’s family that the laser misuse was hazardous. Officers confiscated the laser and forwarded the police report to the Multnomah County Juvenile Department. Fox 12 reported “the suspect was taken to the Multnomah County juvenile detention center.”
The police sent the following tweet:
This is a close-up of the label:
The next night, a green laser beam was pointed for 5-10 seconds at a commercial aircraft as it was preparing to land in Charlottetown, which is about 60 km east of Fernwood. The beam came from the Brackley Beach area about 15 km northwest of the Charlottetown Airport, at about 11 pm local time. Neither pilot in the WestJet aircraft looked into the light; they were able to land without incident.
RCMP on July 17 asked the public for help in finding the perpetrators of these incidents.
A follow-up news story quoted a former pilot as saying the person responsible should “face justice.” He said it was a “very dangerous thing to have happen to you, and they are so destructive… Make the penalties very severe when they’re caught.”
In Canada, shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense punishable to up to five years in prison and/or up to $100,000.
On July 18, a witness contacted RCMP to say he was on Brackley Beach from 10:00 to 11:30 pm. He said a child of about 10-12 years old was using a laser to point at several things, including two aircraft. He said the child was tracing the path of a plane, but was not trying to shine it in the cockpit.
The child and his or her family is not known. RCMP said charges might not be placed in this case: “It does appear that this specific incident was a child at play and not a direct criminal offence. That being said, the child was in the custodial guardianship of two adults and RCMP are asking that items of this nature not be used for entertainment and not be provided to young children as they are unaware of the danger that they can inflict."
The director general for civil aviation, Aaron McCrorie, said there were 333 reported incidents in 2012, 590 incidents in 2015, and 527 in 2016. He said there was only one reported laser/aircraft incident in PEI in the past five years; it took place in 2015.
McCrorie said there have been no accidents in Canada due to such incidents but there have been some cases of permanent eye damage to pilots.
From CBC News (initial report, follow-up, witness report, McCrorie quotes) and OHS Canada
Note: LaserPointerSafety reached out to Transport Canada for clarification about McCrorie’s claim of cases of permanent eye damage to pilots, since we are unaware of any such documented cases with civil pilots either in Canada or worldwide. On July 20 2017, we received an email response from Julie Leroux, Communications Advisor, Media Relations, Transport Canada:
“Laser pointers have serious effects that distract and temporarily blind pilots. While Transport Canada has received reports of pilots experiencing eye damage as a result of a laser strike, due to doctor-patient confidentiality, the department is not in a position to provide details about specific cases.
Generally, pilots report suffering from eye irritation or light sensitivity after being struck in the eye by a laser, which could seriously affect their ability to fly safely.
Mr. Aaron McCrorie, Director General, Civil Aviation, was referring to Canadian cases only.”
On July 26 2017, Leroux further clarified via email:
"Mr. Aaron McCrorie, Director General, Civil Aviation, was misquoted in the [CBC News] story you reference. During the interview he stated Transport Canada is aware of incidents that caused temporary damage to pilots’ eyes, but did not refer to a specific case of permanent blinding. Transport Canada is not aware of any cases where a pilot suffered permanent eye damage as the result of a laser strike."
The helicopter was helping the Coastguard trying to locate a lost person, when the laser illumination occurred.
The man was arrested for endangering an aircraft and was released on bail.
On July 5 2017, the helicopter pilots saw green laser light in the cockpit. They were able to trace it to a location in Johns Creek where ground officers arrested Marius Lizunas. He told them he was using a laser rangefinder to “check the range” to the aircraft.
Lizunas was charged with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
Seeking Information Regarding Laser Strikes
Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for the Northern District of Ohio, and Calvin Williams, chief of Cleveland Division of Police, are seeking information regarding two recent laser strikes, one against a Cleveland Division of Police helicopter and one against a MetroHealth Life helicopter.
Both of these laser strikes occurred on July 4, 2017, at approximately 10:15 p.m. from the 3000 block of West 31st Street in Cleveland, Ohio.
The main hazard for aviation is that pilots can be distracted or temporarily flash-blinded by the light from a laser beam. The light often is a large light at aviation distances, unlike the tiny dot a laser makes at close range. Individuals often do not realize that traveling over hundreds of feet a tiny, two-centimeter laser beam spreads to become approximately six feet of light that can block a pilot’s vision. Most laser strike incidents reported occur at flights under 10,000 feet with the highest percentage being altitudes under 6,000 feet.
Laser strikes are investigated by local and federal law enforcement. Under 18 USC 39 (A), whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned. Under 49 USC Section 46301 (a) (5) (A), the FAA may seek a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation for aiming a laser at an aircraft in violation of C.F.R. Section 91.11.
The FBI and our law enforcement partners are asking the public if they have any knowledge of the laser strikes that occurred last week. If anyone has any information please call the Cleveland Division of the FBI at (216) 522-1400. Tips can remain anonymous and reward money is available for the successful identification and prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for these laser strikes.
Any questions regarding this news release can be directed to SA Vicki D. Anderson at the Cleveland Office of the FBI at (216) 522-1400 or email@example.com or Sargent Jennifer Ciaccia at the Cleveland Division of Police at (216) 623-5033.
From an FBI Cleveland news release dated July 12 2017. Here are two typical news reports, from Fox8 and from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
She was arrested and charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. Schenker faces a maximum jail sentence of five years, and a fine up to $100,000.
A police spokesperson said their helicopters experience about six laser pointer incidents each year. He said “It’s been fairly quiet lately, which is really good.”
From the Edmonton Journal, and RedDeer News Now via the Canadian Press
On December 29 2016, Jay Scott Howell aimed the laser 11 times at the helicopter. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 7 2017 on one count of aiming the laser. The maximum penalty is up to five years in federal prison and/or up to a $250,000 fine.
Howell pleaded guilty on April 10 2017 to the charge.
While U.S. sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month prison term, the judge sentenced Howell to one year of probation. The judge cited Howell’s age (53), limited criminal history and remorse for his actions. The prosecuting U.S. attorney did not object to the sentence, telling the judge “He’s the perfect candidate. I don’t anticipate ever seeing Mr. Howell again.”
If probation is revoked, Howell could serve up to the maximum sentence of five years.
From the Tulsa World
Seventy-four other police officers were injured; one was hospitalized with an eye injury after a firework exploded in his face.
From the Mirror and Reuters
UPDATED JULY 9 2017 - After intensive investigations, German police arrested a 27-year-old Hamburg man “on suspicion of attempted murder”. The unnamed man blinded the two pilots “so badly while they were up in the air that they had to stop working because they couldn’t see.”
The aircraft was on patrol when it was illuminated around 10:30 pm. The beam was traced to a house. Ground officers arrested Darren Williams.
The teen’s father said Darren was unaware that it was illegal to aim a laser at aircraft. “It was an honest mistake. He is really remorseful about it.”
He was charged on both state and federal counts. On the federal charge, he could face up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.
From News9, Fox25 and KOCO News 5
A group of three U.S. ships — a destroyer, an amphibious assault ship, and a dry cargo ship — were transiting international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, according to a U.S. military statement. The Iranian naval vessel, said by one source to be a missile ship, came within 800 yards of the assault ship and scanned two of the U.S. ships with a spotlight.
The helicopter was flying alongside the deployment when the Iranian targeting laser was aimed at it, setting off the flares.
There was no report of injury to the helicopter pilots. A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet said “Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles.”
Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion
From Newsweek and CNN
UPDATED JULY 16 2017 - Iran claimed it did not point a laser at the helicopter. The Tasnim News Agency said “A top commander of Iran’s Navy denied reports that the country’s naval forces had pointed a laser at an airborne US Marine Corps helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz back in June. Commander of Iran's First Naval Zone Admiral Hossein Azad categorically denied reports of such incident.”
The report had no additional details, such as what could have set off the helicopter’s flares as claimed by the initial U.S. report.
From the Tasnim News Agency and the Tehran Times
In August 2016, several aircraft flying in or out of Berlin Schönefeld Airport reported glare from a laser beam A police helicopter was sent to investigate, and was also hit by laser light.
The unnamed perpetrator later said in court he had not been aiming at anything specific in the night sky, and that he did not see the helicopter.
He was sentenced in Zossen (Brandenburg) District Court; Zossen is about 20 miles south of Berlin.
From Spiegel Online in original German and in Google-translated English. Thanks to Alex Hennig for bringing this to our attention.
The incident happened February 21 2015. Asarel Felix Lombera used a $20 green laser pointer to track a police helicopter for about 15 seconds. The light entered the cockpit and momentarily dazed a crew member.
In February 2017 Lombera pleaded guilty. In his plea agreement, he said he was aware that what he did was dangerous and distracting. At sentencing in May, Lombera received a probationary sentence of community service and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
From The Daily Bulletin
On October 28 2013, Rogers aimed a laser three times at a Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department helicopter. The pilot had “eye strain” for several hours after the incident.
Rogers was indicted on the laser charge on August 26 2014. He pleaded guilty on September 8 2016 to one felony count.
At sentencing, federal prosecutors said that Rogers had an extensive history of criminal activity including drug and property crimes, which should be a factor in a longer 4-year sentence.
Rogers’ attorney said the sentence should be shorter. While Rogers knew it was illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft, “he had no knowledge of the highly scientific manner in which a laser endangers an airplane.”
In a sentencing memorandum, he attorney wrote “The average person would believe that a laser beam hitting an aircraft would cause a small spot to appear on the aircraft or in the cockpit, much like shining a laser beam at a wall. It is not common knowledge that the laser actually increases with size as it extends, and that the glass of the cockpit can expand the light further, causing it to light up the entire cockpit.”
From KY3.com, the Kansas City Star, and an article by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica with additional links to legal materials.
Connor Grant Brown
Brown faces state charges of reckless endangerment, obstructing and hindering, and shining a laser pointer at an aircraft.
According to a trooper who was in the helicopter, the laser had a power of 100 milliwatts. The U.S. limit for laser pointers is 5 milliwatts. [The laser itself is legal, but it is illegal to sell lasers over 5 milliwatts as a “pointer” or for pointing purposes. And of course it is illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft in the U.S.]
The trooper also said “he experienced spots on his vision after the laser hit the helicopter, as if he had just looked at the sun. While most sun spots disappear in a few blinks, the spots from the laser did not. He also experienced minor pain that he described to be similar to windburn.”
The trooper said the helicopter pilot described his vision as “sandy.”
A statement of probable cause described Brown’s explanation to troopers regarding why he aimed the laser at the helicopter.
At about 1 am Brown woke up due to a “buzzing sound.” The unknown aircraft flew over his house “every minute, at some points shaking the windows.” Brown aimed his $20 internet-purchased laser “to signal the operator to stop flying so close to the house.”
After police showed up at his house, “my heart sank in my chest.” He apologized and said he did not mean to cause any harm from his “horrible, horrible mistake… From start to finish, what I did was wrong.”
From CBS Baltimore, Carroll County Times initial story, Carroll County Times follow-up story, and Carroll County Times editorial “Use common sense with laser pointers.” Thanks to Capt. Dan Hewett and Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
Hemopo admitted aiming at the aircraft, but not at the cockpit. He further said he was unaware the laser light could be dangerous.
In August 2016 Hemopo pleaded guilty to charges of “causing unnecessary danger.” This has a fine of up to NZD $10,000 and one year in prison.
The Crown dropped charges of “reckless disregard for the safety of others,” which has a maximum penalty of 14 years.
On September 28 2016, Hemopo failed to appear for sentencing. The judge issued an arrest warrant for Hemopo.
On December 1 2016, Hemopo was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail.
From Stuff.co.nz and the New Zealand Herald.
US: UPDATED - Convicted laser offender apologizes, saying he lost everything for three seconds of aiming laser at helicopter
According to an FBI press release, Barry Lee Bowser Jr., then 51 years old, aimed “the beam of a laser at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter that was providing support to ground units responding to a man armed with a gun. At trial, the evidence established that the mission was diverted when the pilot of Air-1 was struck by direct hits from a powerful green laser that illuminated the cockpit and tracked the aircraft near the approach path to Meadows Field Airport. The laser strikes caused the pilot to experience flash blindness, eye discomfort, and pain that lasted several hours. In imposing sentence on September 28 2015, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill found that Bowser had obstructed justice before trial by concealing the laser and providing false statements to law enforcement and at trial through his false testimony about the offense.”
On September 23 2016, Bowser wrote to apologize, and to describe how his life had been ruined:
I'm writing this letter to apologize to the community of Bakersfield and to the Kern County Sheriff's Department —especially to the flight crew of KCSO Air One, piloted by Deputy Austin.
I was convicted of one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and sentenced to 24 months in a federal penitentiary, then 36 more months of supervised release for a total of 60 months — five years — plus ordered to pay a special assessment fee of $10,000. I am very lucky the pilot was an expert and highly skilled at piloting the helicopter.
I also want to educate anyone who owns a laser and might be inclined to use it the way I did: Learn from my mistake. I am now just getting out of prison. I have paid dearly, for I have lost my girlfriend, my dog, my home, my vehicle. Everything I owned, everything I have worked for 30 years of my life, is gone.
For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life. I am now 54 years old and I have no one and nothing but the clothes I was given when I was released from prison.
From Bakersfield.com. Original LaserPointerSafety.com story about Bowser is here. There is a small discrepancy; the FBI said Bowser’s sentence was 21 months while Bowser stated it was 24 months.
UPDATED December 20 2016 — An extensive profile of Barry Bowser’s laser pointer incident, trial, and his life before and after his arrest, was published by Ars Technica. The 4,000 word article by editor Cyrus Farivar describes a convicted criminal and meth addict who said he was trying to go straight and clean.
On the evening of September 11 2014 he was bored and found a laser pointer which had been given to him as a dog toy. The dog soon tired of playing so Bowser aimed at a billboard, and two radio towers before he hit something in the sky — the Sheriff’s Office helicopter. When police arrived, Bowser told them was testing the laser’s capabilities. During his trial in federal court, the case hinged on Bowser’s intent. (The applicable federal law states “Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft … shall be fined … or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.)
Prosecutor Karen Escobar said the lasing was done knowingly: “[Y]our common sense tells you there was an aiming because there were direct hits of the aircraft, and there was more than one strike.” Bowser’s public defender said there was no intent — Bowser had not meant to aim a laser pointer at a helicopter. After 4.5 hours of deliberation, Bowser was found guilty.
As stated in Bowser’s September 23 2016 letter, the conviction and jail time was ruinous: “For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life.”
Farivar’s profile is one of the few in-depth examinations of a laser pointer arrest, conviction and aftermath. His article also links to an annotated transcript of day 1 and of day 2 of Bowser’s trial, and annotated related court documents. Farivar has previously reported a number of stories about laser pointer misuse for Ars Technica.
When deputies arrived, they told Brandon J. Neeser to show his hands. Neeser pointed the laser device at the deputies. They saw it was not connected to a gun so they did not take defensive action. The deputies arrested Neeser, who told them he did not know it was illegal and he “thought it would be funny” to aim at the helicopter because they were aiming a light at him.
Neeser faces two felony counts of unlawful discharge of a laser.
From MyFoxSpokane and KREM
Evans, 25, of San Antonio, Texas, worked as a security guard in a medical clinic. Workers at the clinic told FBI agents that Evans had laser pointers of different colors and sometimes aimed them at employees.
On October 27 2015, Evans stood outside the clinic and lit up a WOAI-TV news helicopter three times with a green laser:
Evans in the clinic parking lot, aiming his laser pointer
The laser beam goes directly into the cockpit
The helicopter pilot was able to help ground officers find Evans’ location. Evans initially denied his involvement to investigating FBI agents. After questioning with a polygraph, Evans said he did hit the helicopter and in fact had previously aimed lasers at other aircraft as well.
Evans will be sentenced December 12. He could receive up to five years in federal prison and be fined up to $250,000.
This is the second guilty plea in Texas this month. Juan Peralez, 57, of La Joya Texas pleaded guilty on September 2 to aiming a laser pointer at a Border Patrol Helicopter.
From the Hastings Tribune, Houston Chronicle and News4SanAntonio
A police spokesperson said “It is an offense we take extremely seriously and people need to realize the dangers of this reckless behavior. Our message is clear, use them and you will be arrested.”
The severity of the medical complaint, and the pilot’s diagnosis and treatment, were not known. A WestJet spokesperson cited privacy concerns.
The Boeing 737 flight originated in Toronto. The laser was said to have come from “a wooded area in the middle of nowhere”, when the plane was at about 3,500 feet altitude.
According to CBC, there were 40 laser incidents reported in Alberta in May 2016, and 500 incidents in all of Canada in 2015. (According to the Ottawa Citizen, there were 502 laser illuminations in the Transport Canada CADORS database in 2014, and 663 incidents in 2015.)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police from the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo were investigating the incident.
From CBC, CTV News and the National Post
The incident occurred on June 20 2016, when the helicopter pilot had to take evasive action to avoid the green beam. Another crew member guided ground officers to the laser perpetrator, where Peralez was arrested.
An infrared camera onboard the aircraft helped the crew locate the source of the laser beam. Ground officers found the pellet gun, which 19-year-old Nicholas Caranci had thrown to the ground as he ran away. The IR camera helped the helicopter crew direct officers to the teen’s location.
In an attempt to escape arrest, Nicholas Carianci ran from the court at right and hopped over a fence, after throwing his pellet gun with a laser sight into weeds (green circle). Thanks to the helicopter IR surveillance camera, police were able to pick up both the teen and the pellet gun.
Caranci was arrested and charged with mischief endangering life, unlawfully engaging in behavior that endangers an aircraft, and projecting a bright light source into navigable airspace.
From the Mirror
The incident happened August 25 2016 in Mission, Texas. The pilot’s vision was temporarily impaired as the laser light lit up the cockpit. The pilot directed ground officers to a home, where Aaron Caceres, 27, and his brother Francisco Caceres, 24, confessed to the laser misuse.
Aaron (27) and Francisco (24) Caceres
On November 14, 2015, the OCSD helicopter was responding to a traffic accident, looking for any victims who may have been thrown from an overturned vehicle. The helicopter was illuminated multiple times by green laser light. The tactical flight officer called the multiple strikes “relentless.”
The helicopter crew was able to direct police on the ground to the backyard of a residence. Lopez was arrested on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft. After an investigation conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Ana Police Department and the FBI, Lopez was indicted on federal charges which culminated in his August 2016 prison sentence.
“This defendant knew that pointing the laser at the helicopter could cause the pilot blindness and endanger those operating the aircraft, but committed the crime anyway,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This was a senseless crime that warrants the sentence imposed by the court.”
United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford, said the offense was a “distraction” to the people in the air and that “people could die.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.
From a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California
The first incident occurred August 17 2016 at about 5:15 am. The light went into the pilot’s eye, leaving his vision “dangerously obstructed”, according to Cecily Fong, public information officer of the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.
The second incident happened on August 21 2016 at about 12:45 am. The pilot looked away in time to avoid the laser light, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s department.
News reports are unclear, but it appears the same aircraft and same pilot were involved in both incidents.
The flights were being done by the North Dakota Highway Patrol to monitor approximately 3,000 persons — most Native American tribal members — who wanted to block construction of the pipeline until a court hearing could take place over its impact to sacred sites and culturally important landscapes.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in to try and find the laser perpetrator(s).
Tara Houska, speaking on behalf of Honor the Earth, a non-profit organization supporting indigenous peoples’ environmental justice, said “Why launch a federal investigation into a laser pointer instead of asking what right the U.S. government has to fly surveillance planes over sovereign nations in the first place?”
From KELOland TV, Snopes, Forum News Service, Belleville News-Democrat and Intercontinental Cry magazine
The building is located under a major flightpath, about 3.5 miles from Southampton Airport. On the map below, Albion Towers is towards the bottom; the airport is at the top.
According to the Southern Daily Echo, shocked tenants and community leaders have condemned the trespassing youths as ‘putting lives at risk’…”
Housing authorities sent letters to some residents stating that the teens’ actions were “extremely dangerous” and the long range laser pointer could have caused a “major incident” if aimed at aircraft.
The letter noted that the youths appeared “undeterred” and had “considered their actions humorous.”
The news report did not indicate that any lasing activity, or any aiming of the laser towards aircraft, had actually occurred.
From the Southern Daily Echo
While the first incident was being investigated, another laser illuminated the aircraft. This was traced to a 7-year-old. The child’s mother was given the laser pointer, along with a lecture about the dangers of aiming at aircraft. The child was not charged.
The distance between the two laser users was about 4 miles. The map below shows the ground location of the first and second incidents:
On July 25 Martinez pleaded not guilty to the two charges. He has prior court records which include felony unauthorized use of a vehicle and failure to appear. He also has been charged with heroin delivery and possession of heroin and methamphetamine; that case is pending.
From the Associated Press via the Register-Guard, and OregonLive
During the March 9 2016 incident, intermittent flashes from the laser caused the pilot to take evasive action. The search for a missing person was called off, and instead the crew tracked the laser beam to two men in a park in the Newfoundpool area of Leicester. When ground officers apprehended the men, each man said the other had been using the laser.
Martin Gary Jayes, 46, had 71 criminal convictions on his record and was drunk when arrested for the laser offense. He was sentenced to eight months in jail for recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.
His neighbor Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail.
The judge said the men’s actions had “grave risks” and was “life-threatening.”
Jayes’ lawyer said “This offense was committed in drink by someone who knew better. He’s badly let himself down.”
Plaskiewicz’s lawyer said “He knows he’s acted in a very stupid way. There was no intention to bring down a helicopter. If it wasn’t so serious it might have been a childhood prank.”
From the Leicester Mercury. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
The helicopter was lased twice while in the air, and a third time when it landed. Officers traced the laser to Emily Ann Hunter. She was charged with illumination of an aircraft, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $1,000.
Emily Ann Hunter
Officers in the helicopter were searching for a kidnapping suspect when they were illuminated 15-20 times as they flew over Weirsdale, Florida, about an hour northwest of Orlando. The pilot was directly hit in the eyes “at least five times” according to a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.
The airborne officers used night-vision equipment to find Phillip Willman. He was arrested and told officers he only aimed the laser at the helicopter once. Willman was charged with six counts of pointing laser light at a driver or pilot.
The Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said that during 2016, there have been “over five” incidents where lasers were aimed at helicopters, two of which ended with an arrest.
From FOX35 Orlando
From BBC News
The instructor was not injured. There was no information available whether there was anyone else in the aircraft at the time.
The incident is being classified as “endangering an aircraft," and police are investigating.
From the Daily Mail
“The cockpit crew of Alitalia flight AZ4000 on Friday 12 February noticed a laser light from the ground, as did other aircraft flying towards Mexico City, as they prepared to land at the Mexican capital’s airport. The aircraft Captain, Massimiliano Marselli, promptly reported to the control tower what the cockpit crew had witnessed, which is standard procedure with these type of matters, and similarly it is usual practice for the control tower to alert the competent, local authorities. None of our cockpit crew or any passengers on board were injured by the beam and the aircraft landed safely. The aircraft, an Airbus A330, was enroute from Havana in Cuba to Mexico.”
According to the Sun, air traffic control transmissions recorded a number of pilots reporting laser strikes.
From the New York Daily News; Alitalia statement tweeted by Jon Williams, foreign editor of ABC News. Thanks to Alberto Kellner for bringing this to our attention.
Virgin’s website stated that “Following this incident the first officer reported feeling unwell. The decision was taken by both pilots to return to Heathrow rather than continue the transatlantic crossing."
The airline said passengers would stay overnight and would then be able to fly to JFK Airport “as soon as possible”.
Police were attempting to find the laser source, said to be 6-7 miles from the airport. An article in the Daily Mail included a map showing the aircraft’s takeoff pattern, and the area where the laser beam was thought to have originated.
From the Telegraph, Daily Mail, BBC News and ITV. Audio recording from AirportWebcams.net.
UPDATED February 15 2016: The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) called for “the Government to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them.” From a statement on BALPA’s website, reprinted here.
UPDATED February 17 2017: A forum post claiming to be from the Virgin Atlantic pilot gave details about the incident. The person posted under the handle “scroggs”. He wrote: “I am the Captain in this event…. It was a red beam, not a green one. It was indeed reported as and when it happened. The pictures we got show its ground position (which wasn’t Legoland as far as I can see), and will hopefully help those in the know to estimate its power and provenance.”
Scroggs continued: “As was reported in the news, the FO did receive retinal damage from what appeared to be a 'lucky' passing sweep, but it's not permanent and will heal fully. There was no visual impairment during the flight, but there was no way of knowing (for me) that that would continue to be the case. The symptoms were slow in making themselves apparent. That's about all I'm prepared to say for now.” From post #173 in a thread on PPRuNE.org about the incident.
Background commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com
After around 40,000 laser incidents reported to U.S. FAA and U.K. CAA from 2004 through 2015*, as of February 14 2016 this is the first occurrence we are aware of where a commercial aircraft has turned around and not completed its flight, due to a laser incident from the ground.
- There have been a few instances where a flight has changed course, such as pilot doing a “go around” on landing because of laser light on the first attempt.
- Some police and rescue operations have had their missions disrupted by a laser; this has been common for the U.S. Coast Guard which has operational rules requiring a mission to abort if there is laser illumination.
- In 2013, there was an incident where an aircraft made an emergency diversion 224 miles short of its destination, because a passenger onboard was using a homemade laser to burn several small holes in fabric near his seat. This is the only other emergency diversion we are aware of due to laser misuse.
As of February 14 2016, there is no confirmed, documented case of permanent eye injury to a civilian pilot (commercial, general aviation, or police/rescue) due to exposure in the cockpit to laser light from the ground.
In a fall 2014 case, first publicly reported about a year later, a British Airways pilot illuminated by a laser on landing at Heathrow was treated at a Sheffield hospital for spots on his retina. The case was reported in a medical journal in January 2016 which said the area had healed within two weeks. An expert close to the case, who directly examined the journal paper and the evidence, told LaserPointerSafety.com in February that he does not believe the retinal injury was laser-induced, and that it was “not confirmed” as a laser injury “despite what the journal paper says.”
*29,097 laser incidents reported to U.S. FAA, Jan 1 2004 through Dec 31 2015; plus “more than 8,998 laser incidents” reported to U.K. CAA “between 2009 and June 2015.”
The control tower had called police around 10 pm after the two laser illuminations. Using binoculars, an air traffic controller had spotted a person in the area where the laser light came from.
Police picked up Gerardo Sanchez “because he was the only one walking near the airport” at the time. Sanchez had a laser on him, and told an officer he had been pointing the laser in different directions. He said he had aimed it in the general direction of an aircraft, and at the control tower several times. Sanchez said he was studying to be a pilot at the ATP Flight School, located at the airport; ATP had not confirmed whether Sanchez was a student.
Two air traffic controllers had laser light in their eyes. One pilot told police “the green laser did affect him for about one or two seconds because it was pointed at his eyes.” The other pilot saw the beam but the light was not pointed directly at him.
Sanchez was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver/pilot, which is a felony.
From the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, also located in Daytona Beach, lists a “Gerardo Sanchez” as a student of theirs who was hired April 2014 as an instructor pilot by the Saudi Flight Academy. The photo shows an older person who does not resemble the 23-year-old Gerardo Sanchez who claimed to be a student pilot. We are mentioning this to avoid any confusion between the two Sanchez’s.
Sharma’s lawyer said the teen “was goofing around to see how high [the laser] could project into the sky”, and did not intend to create a hazard.
From the Winnipeg Sun
The “Star Shower” laser projector, sold for $40 in stores including Wal-Mart, Target and CVS during the 2015 Christmas season. Details on the potential hazard are here.
On December 3 2015, a commercial airplane at 13,000 feet altitude reported being illuminated by what was believed to be a “laser holiday light display.” The light was traced to a home 22 miles east of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. A pilot who was not involved told CBSDFW that likely the homeowner was asked to re-aim or remove the display, to prevent beams from going in the air. According to the news station, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said was the first case they had heard of, involving holiday laser lights.
However, NBC Los Angeles reported on an earlier incident. On November 18 2015, a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft sent a “distress call” to Sacramento police after being illuminated with laser light. A homeowner was advised to be more careful with the beam location. (It is not known why the FAA was not aware of this earlier incident.) Here is the NBC Los Angeles video:
On December 6 2015, three aircraft reported laser lights which were traced to a holiday display at at home three miles from Kansas City International airport. The homeowner told police he had “no idea he was endangering the public”
From CBSDFW, NBC Los Angeles, KSHB Kansas City. For much more information on the device and its potential hazards, see this LaserPointerSafety.com story.
The accident happened in mid-October, in Stouerport, North Westchestershire. Simon Evans, next door neighbor to the family, had prior experience operating drones. Oscar was in his family’s front yard when after about 60 seconds of flight, Evans’ drone hit a tree, went out of control, and sliced through the toddler’s eye. The BBC quoted his mother, Amy Roberts, as saying “What I saw was what I thought was the bottom half of his eye, and it's the worst thing I've ever seen."
From the Telegraph and Ars Technica
Analysis and commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com
Although this severe accident did not involve lasers, there are some comparisons and contrasts with consumer laser pointer eye injuries. In almost all cases, a consumer laser injury does not cause complete loss of vision. It certainly does not result in exterior damage or destruction of the entire eyeball. On the other hand, drone injuries are rare, with only a few cases of persons being injured by falling drones. This is the only drone eye injury we are aware of, while there are a number of laser pointer eye injuries, some of which are in lists here and here.
The incident took place in Richmond Hill, Georgia. The Coast Guard urged anyone with information to come forward.
McAuslan said the identity of the person, who was acting as co-pilot at the time of the incident and thus was not operating the aircraft, could not be revealed at present due to it being reviewed by an “employment tribunal.” British Airways said they are investigating the claimed injury.
McAuslan said that “kids’” lasers could not cause injury but that laser weapons could now be purchased illegally. [Lasers over 1 milliwatt in power are not legal for sale to the general public in Britain.] He said “We’re very concerned about it. When something as strong as this comes on the scene it starts to worry us.”
BALPA is also concerned over a survey of its pilot members, showing that 50% had reported a laser/aircraft incident during the period from November 2014 to November 2015.
According to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, there have been about 4-5 laser incidents reported each day on average, over the past four years. From January 1 to June 30 2015, there were more than 400 laser incidents reported to CAA.
From the Guardian, the Express, the Evening Standard, and the Belfast Telegraph
UPDATED - April 20 2016: Significant doubt has been cast on whether the eye damage was caused by a laser. In January 2016, a medical journal report was published by two ophthalmologists and a laser safety regulator. The report stated that there was no long-term negative effect on vision: “The pilot’s symptoms fully resolved 2 wk later.”
In February 2016 a very knowledgeable expert, who directly reviewed all evidence in the case, told LaserPointerSafety.com he “doesn’t believe it was laser-induced” and that the injury being caused by a laser was “not confirmed, despite what the journal paper says.”
This is confirmed by an April 2016 editorial written by three leading U.K. laser safety experts — including the laser safety regulator who co-authored the January 2016 medical journal report. The experts concluded the case is suspect for a number of reasons; they do not believe laser targeting caused the alleged injury. They wrote: “Only one case of alleged retinal damage to a pilot resulting from laser targeting of aircraft has been reported, although not in a peer review ophthalmic journal. This case is suspect because first and foremost, the metrology and exposure geometry would suggest insufficient energy could have entered the eye to produce irreversible damage and second the fundus anomaly is in the wrong location, the wrong shape and resulted in an extremely transient reported loss of VA [visual acuity] with full recovery.”
Analysis and commentary by LaserPointerSafety.com
If the pilot’s injury was caused by the laser exposure, this would have been the first documented case of a permanent laser eye injury to a civilian pilot. It would also have been the first case where a civilian pilot was unable to continue to be qualified to fly, due to laser exposure while in an aircraft.
There may be military cases of laser eye injury but if so, these would likely be classified and thus not be known to LaserPointerSafety.com. (There was a 1997 case of a military observer who had a claimed eye injury which was later found by laser injury experts to be not caused by his laser exposure.)
[Note: The publicity from this led to widespread news stories that the 20 total incidents which happened that night was a large number. In fact, it was only slightly more than the current 2015 average of 18.3 reported incidents per night. More on this in a story in the News/Statistics section.]
One person tracked the aircraft and tweeted the resulting map (below). It shows aircraft converging on Atlantic Terminal Mall, an urban shopping center across Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center sports arena near the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill areas of Brooklyn.
WNBC Chopper 4 pilot Dennis Protsko helped police locate the source of the laser, a group of people in the rear of the “Energy Fuel” health food restaurant on Fulton Street.
From WNBC Chopper 4
According to NBCNewYork, “the cook was found holding a frying pan with the laser inside it when police went to the restaurant. He told police pointing the laser was meant to be a joke, according to sources. “
Two people were taken into custody. The cook, 20-year-old Ossieo Silva of the Flatbush-Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, was arrested. He was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment; one is a felony and one is a misdemeanor.
The New York Daily News quoted court documents as saying that Silva told police he never pointed a light at helicopters before, and he “thought it would be funny.” Bail was set at $20,000.
Some stories — and the tweet above — said three news helicopters, from WABC, WCBS and WNBC were involved in Brooklyn. Other stories said there were two helicopters, from WCBS and WNBC. The confusion may be due to the fact that WABC’s NewsCopter 7 was involved in an earlier New Jersey lasing incident. (It may also be that the WABC aircraft flew from New Jersey to the Brooklyn scene and thus was involved in both incidents.)
About thirty minutes before the Brooklyn incident, a laser was pointed at a WABC news helicopter flying over Elizabeth, New Jersey, which is about 12 miles straight-line from the Atlantic Terminal Mall and is near Newark Liberty Airport. The crew contacted police and assisted them in locating the source. A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with interference with transportation and utilizing a laser toward an aircraft.
Still frame, paused from WABC NewsCopter 7 video
The incident occurred on May 30 2015. Orlando Jose Chapa was in his driveway when he aimed a laser beam at a Department of Public Safety helicopter. He was arrested on September 23 2015, after being indicted by a federal grand jury.
He remains free on bond; a sentencing date has not been set. He could receive up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.
Orlando Jose Chapa