A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

Australia: UPDATED - Laser pen aimed at police during New Year's Eve festivities

A “high-powered” laser pointer was aimed at a Sydney police helicopter during a New Years Eve 2011 celebration in Bradfield Park. The helicopter was targeted four times; no injuries were reported. Ground officers were directed to a person in the crowd who was arrested.

The 27-year-old native of Taiwan was charged with threatening the safety of aircraft and the possession of a laser pointer in a public space. He was interviewed through an interpreter and had to surrender his passport. A court date of January 24 was set.

From Mosman Daily and DailyTelegraph.com

UPDATE, January 23 2012 -- Yu-Wei Chang pleaded guilty to threatening the safety of an aircraft, and to possessing a laser pointer in a public place. Chang had previously used the pointer in his job in Taiwan, as a tour guide. His solicitor said Chang did not intend any harm. He did not know it was illegal to possess lasers in New South Wales or to aim at an aircraft. Chang did it due to “New Year’s Eve exuberance.” Chang will be sentenced on February 28. The judge said she needed to get more information about similar cases in Australia, and to consider options other than imprisonment. She did say “there will be some punishment.”

Yu-Wei Chang laser
Chang after the guilty plea


UPDATE 2, February 28 2012 - Chang was sentenced to three months in prison on one charge, and four months on another charge. Both prison terms were suspended on condition of paying AUS $200 and entering into a 12-month good behavior bond. Details are here.

From Mosman Daily, 9News and DailyTelegraph.com

US: Teen may be charged in Pasadena laser illumination

A Pasadena (California) police helicopter was illuminated twice by laser light on December 28 2011 as it flew over Altadena. The pilot was able to locate the source. Ground officers identified a 15-year-old, who told them he was aiming at the helicopter. His laser pointer was confiscated.

No arrest was made that evening, but police will be speaking with the parents (who were not home at the time). Misdemeanor or felony charges may be filed. If a misdemeanor, the penalty could be up to a year in jail and/or a $1000 fine. If a felony, the penalty could be from 16 to 36 months in state prison and/or a $2000 fine.

From the Pasadena Star-News

US: Ventura County helicopter ends search due to laser danger

A Ventura County (California) Sheriff’s Department helicopter broke off a search for a gang shooting suspect, after being illuminated two times by a laser beam.

The December 27 2011 incident began as the aircraft was hovering 500 feet above the crime scene in Fillmore. A laser beam was aimed at the cockpit. The crew broke off to find the suspect, but was unable to locate them. The helicopter returned to the crime scene where a laser was once again pointed at them. The crew broke off once more. A potential suspect was identified, but ground units determined the person was not involved.

The crew then made the determination that due to the laser aimings it was too dangerous to fly. They ended both the search for the shooting suspect, and the search for the laser perpetrator.

A sheriff’s department spokesperson said there had been several previous laser illuminations of the helicopter in Fillmore. He was unsure whether the Dec. 27 incident was related, but said “I would hope they are related, because if they are not, that would mean there is more than one person doing it.”

From the Ventura County Star

UPDATE December 29 2011 (1:49 PM): An arrest has been made in this case. Torrey Phillips, 20, was arrested on December 28 on an outstanding felony warrant stemming from two criminal threats convictions. Deputies found a green laser in his possession. Bail was set at $40,000. The Ventura County Star story does not state how deputies linked Phillips with the previous evening’s lasing of the sheriff’s department helicopter.

Pic 2012-01-02 at 2.26.56 PM
It is about 1600 feet (ground distance) from the helicopter location (open red circle) to Phillips’ home where he was arrested (black square). Address information from
KEYT.

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UK: Arrest for aiming laser at police helicopter in Sheffield

A South Yorkshire Police helicopter was “continually” targeted by a green laser beam, on December 24 2011. The pilot directed officers on the ground, who arrested an unnamed man.

The airborne officers had been assisting a search for vandals who damaged cars; the offenders were located by a police dog.

From the
Sheffield Telegraph

UK: West Mercia police helicopter hit twice in one night

The Shropshire Star reports that the West Mercia police helicopter was targeted twice by laser pens, in separate incidents early in the morning of December 17 2011.

The first one occurred as the crew was investigating a burglary in Telford. Ground units arrested a man on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. He admitted aiming the laser at the helicopter and was “cautioned”. (It is not clear whether any subsequent action will be taken against the unnamed man.) The laser pen was seized.

The second incident happened as the helicopter was assisting with a traffic stop. It is not known if anyone was arrested for lasing the aircraft during this occurrence.

A Telford Police spokeswoman was quoted as saying “Police will not tolerate this kind of behaviour. It is extremely dangerous…. Anyone found participating in such behaviour will be arrested and dealt with.”

On their Twitter feed, the air crew said that persons on the ground don’t realize how easy it is to find them: “It’s just like the bat signal. We can see exactly where they are and they get arrested.”

From the
Shropshire Star, ShropshireLive.com and BBC News Shropshire

Pakistan: Terror alert issued; lasers mentioned as possible attack

Pakistani airports and other public institutions are on a heightened terror alert as of December 15 2011. The general manager of the Airport Security Force (ASF) said there is a threat against airports similar to the July 2001 attack on Sri Lanka’s airport . Anti-air defense systems have been deployed and snipers have been stationed.

Laser attacks were mentioned as a possibility by the ASF manager. An Italian-language news source said “police have arrested several suspects in October for trying to bring down a plane of the flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Lahore to Quetta by using a large laser projector. But the pilot managed to divert the course and avert disaster.” (Via Google Translate)

From Pakistan Today and the Italian-language Blitz Quotidiano

US: Long Island man arrested after aiming laser at plane, then police helicopter

David Smith was arrested after first aiming a laser at an aircraft, and then aiming at the police helicopter searching for the laser source.

On December 5 2011, a small single-engine plane was preparing to land at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island, NY. The pilot reported seeing a light aimed towards him (some sources say it was red, others say it was green). FAA officials informed Suffolk County police. The Suffolk Police helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser. They easily traced the laser back to its source, Smith’s home in St. James, NY. Ground units then moved in to arrest the 21-year-old. It took about an hour from the time of the FAA call to Smith’s arrest.

David Smith laser
David Smith, arrested for lasing aircraft


On December 9, Smith was charged with “obstructing governmental administration in the second degree”. Additional charges may be filed by the Port Authority Terrorism Task Force and perhaps the FAA and other governmental agencies.

Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson pleads guilty; likely to get 10 days in jail and 200 work hours

Clark James Gable III pleaded guilty December 8 2011 to one felony count of “discharge of a laser at an occupied aircraft.” In exchange for the guilty plea, other charges were dropped that could have put Gable in jail for three years. It is expected that prosecutors will ask for a 10 day jail sentence, plus 200 hours community service on a California Department of Transportation work crew. Gable’s sentencing will take place January 12 2012.

Gable, 23, is the grandson of actor Clark Gable, famed as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and for appearing in 66 other movies.

On July 28 2011, Gable was a passenger in a car driving through Hollywood when a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter was struck by a green laser beam. The two officers were temporarily blinded, according to police reports. Ground units were directed to the car by the helicopter. They found a laser pointer later measured to be 52 milliwatts. Gable and the driver, 23-year-old Maximilian Anderson, were arrested. Gable told officers that he had been aiming at the Hollywood sign, but missed.

In late July, Gable told reporters the incident was “a misunderstanding” and that he would learn from his mistake. Gable’s manager said “it wasn’t intentional. Nobody knew it was a felony.”

From Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, and AFP. LaserPointerSafety.com has news items on the July 28 arrest, and on the August 26 arraignment.

UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
.
Click to read more...

UK: Hatfield man charged with laser pen hit on police helicopter

A 29-year-old Hatfield man was arrested for aiming a green laser at a police helicopter on November 28 2011. The laser hit occurred in Iver, a town about 20 miles west of London. The unnamed man was charged with directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. A hearing is set for December 12.

Pic 2011-12-02 at 10.27.08 AM
The red “A” marks Hollow Hill Lane in Iver, site of the laser incident. The site is 4 miles northwest of Heathrow Airport.


From
Bucks Free Press
.

UK: 21-year-old Hertfordshire man given "conditional discharge" after lasing helicopter

A 21-year-old from Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire was found guilty November 29 2011 of endangering an aircraft. Charlie Baker had aimed a laser pen at a police helicopter on November 18 2011.

In St Albans Magistrates Court, he received a conditional discharge of 12 months. If Baker does not commit any other offense in that time period, his conviction will be stricken from the criminal record. Baker also paid court costs of £85, and forfeited his laser pen.

From the
Watford Observer and Wikipedia “Discharge” article, England and Wales section
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Canada: B.C. man arrested 7 1/2 months after helicopter lasing incident

On April 15 2011, a laser was pointed at a Royal Canadian Mounted Police helicopter in Vancouver, B.C. There was no injury to the pilot or passenger, according to LangleyAdvance.

On December 1 2011, Alexander William Schiller of Langley, B.C. was arrested for the crime. The 30-year-old was charged under the Aeronautics Act with endangering an aircraft by interfering with a crew member, and by creating an airspace hazard. He also faces a criminal charge of mischief. Schiller’s court appearance is scheduled for September 2012.

It is unclear what caused the delay in arresting Schiller, or the delay in bringing him to trial.

Pic 2011-12-01 at 7.38.16 PM
The red “A” locates East 17th Ave. and St. Catherines Street, where Schiller is alleged to have aimed a laser pointer at an RCMP helicopter.


According to a CBC report, “only a handful” of Canadians have been prosecuted. A pilot spokesperson was quoted as saying “The justice system is sort of behind the times on this.”

From CBC News and LangleyAdvance
.

Australia: UPDATED - Video shows Sept. arrest of Hampton Park man given AUD $3500 fine

Video footage taken by a police helicopter helped track and convict Tam Thanh Nguyen, 21, of Cranbourne. On September 3 2011, Nguyen was at a party in Hampton Park. He pointed a green laser, which he had bought on vacation in Malaysia, at the helicopter which was 2 km away. The pilot turned on the video which recorded Nguyen’s second illumination:


The pilot was flashblinded so that he had to fly on instruments only. He called ground officers, and Nguyen was arrested within 30 minutes.

On November 24 2011 Nguyen pleaded guilty to interfering with an aircraft crew member, and to possessing and importing a prohibited weapon into Victoria. Prosecutors asked for a jail term of up to the maximum two years. Nguyen’s lawyer said his client was sorry: “You won’t get more genuine remorse … this was a spontaneous act of stupidity…”. The judge said Nguyen had good character and had not understood the consequences of his actions. He fined Nguyen AUD $2000 and he was ordered to donate another $1500 to charity.

Nguyen’s laser was said to be “60 times more powerful than the allowable limit.” (In Victoria, pointers over 1 mW are banned, so the laser must have been 60 mW.)

From the Herald Sun. The original story of Nguyen’s arrest in September was covered here by LaserPointerSafety.com.

UPDATED February 28 2012: Nguyen lost a February 27 appeal on the charge of interfering with the crew or the aircraft. At the hearing, his lawyer said Nguyen’s drunken actions were “spontaneous and stupid” and he had never intended to deliberately shine the laser into the cockpit. Two character witnesses testified on Nguyen’s behalf. However, the appeals judge was amazed that a “smart, talented and highly regarded person could commit acts with such potential for disaster.” The judge noted there were “unthinkable consequences” from the September 3 2011 lasing, and he was therefore obligated to convict Nguyen due to the seriousness of the incident. From The Age.
.

Russia: Laser flashblinds 737 crew landing in Krasnodar

A laser flashblinded the crew of a Boeing 737 carrying 89 passengers, as it landed in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar on November 21 2011. No injuries were reported. Although police “identified the spot where the attack came from”, no one has been arrested.

From The Moscow Times
.

US: Man arrested after laser "blacks out" pilot

Jorge Garcia of Lehigh Acres, Florida (near Fort Myers) was arrested November 15 2011 for aiming a laser at a Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Two pilots had been searching for suspects in a shooting, when a green laser was pointed at them. According to a news report, the pilots “had been wearing night vision goggles, when the first pilot sustained injury from the laser and ‘blacked out’. “ The laser continued to be aimed at the aircraft for two minutes, until ground units arrived. Garcia was arrested after officers questioned three people found at a residence. Garcia told deputies he thought the lasing was a joke.

Pic 2011-11-16 at 1.10.32 PM
Jorge Garcia, charged with one count of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, causing injury.


The pilot suffered an eye injury, according to police. He was taken to a hospital, treated, and released.

From WINK News and WZVN-HD
.

US: "Stupid" Florida man arrested after helicopter breaks off landing approach

Bradley Walker, 26, was arrested November 9 2011 after he aimed a green laser at a sheriff’s helicopter. The Citrus County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office deputies were on final approach to Inverness Airport when they were temporarily flashblinded. The pilot had to remove his night vision goggles and broke off the landing by banking to the left.

Bradley Walker laser
Bradley Raymond Walker

The laser continued to shine on the helicopter. The other deputy reported the laser location to ground units, who arrested Walker. According to the arrest report, when asked why he did it, Walker said he was “just being stupid” and apologized. He was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device.

From 10News and the CCSO arrest report
.

Scotland: Police fail to arrest man who lased RAF helicopter during search operation

Police failed to charge a man who aimed a green laser at an RAF Search and Rescue helicopter in Cowdenbeath, Scotland on November 4 2011. The Sea King was searching for a missing man when the cockpit was illuminated. The pilot reported the location and ground units were sent. Police found the perpetrator, but did not arrest him. The man claimed he had not been aiming at the helicopter but instead was playing with it in his garden.

Local officials were upset. A Fife councillor said “It’s disturbing. Some action should have been taken against the individual and I will be making enquiries…” The local member of Scottish Parliament said she found it “absolutely astounding” that the man was not charged with a serious offense.

From
Deadline News
.

US: Lasers hit 4 planes at LaGuardia Friday, 2 more Saturday

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is asking for leads in six laser incidents involving aircraft landing at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Friday Nov. 4 and Saturday Nov. 5, 2011. The green laser beams came from an area roughly five miles southwest of the airport (area circled in red on map below).

Pic 2011-11-07 at 6.11.03 PM

Four commuter jets were illuminated on Friday between 6:06 and 7:56 pm. On Saturday, a commuter jet and a Boeing 757 were illuminated around 7:00 pm. The aircraft were between 1600 and 2500 feet when struck by the laser beams. There were no reports of injuries, eye effects, or flight deviations.

Aviation expert John Trepani said the clustering of the incidents was troubling: “That’s unusual and highly disturbing. Do we have people fooling around or do we have people who have bad intentions to airliners using a sighting, using a laser as a sighter, a weapon’s sighter, just to see the reaction, just to see if Homeland Security takes this seriously?”

Trepani was also troubled by the fact that all aircraft landed on Runway 4, which CBS called “one of the most difficult runways at LaGuardia” (although this claim was disputed by a pilot in the comments).

Anyone with information can contact local police and/or the FAA. LaserPointerSafety.com has a page about how to report laser incidents; the page includes FAA contact information.

From MSNBC.com and CBS New York
.

Australia: Hamilton laser aimed at Brisbane aircraft

A laser beam was pointed in the direction of aircraft landing at Brisbane Airport, on November 4 2011. Apparently the beam did not illuminate the aircraft or pilots. An Airservices Australia spokesperson said the beam came from an area in Hamilton.

Pic 2011-12-19 at 11.15.45 AM
Hamilton, the source of the laser beam, is about four miles from the end of Brisbane Airport’s main runway


From News.com.au, as viewed on a Google cached page

US: St. Louis area man arrested for aiming at plane, helicopter

A 30-year-old man was arrested for aiming a green laser at an airplane and a police helicopter on November 4 2011. The incident took place in St. Charles County, about 20 miles northwest of St. Louis. Police directed to the suspect’s house found him with a laser in his hand. The case was referred to the FBI.

From STLtoday.com and STLtoday.com incident reports

UPDATE February 9 2012: Brian David Monday was indicted on one felony count of interfering with an airplane and a helicopter. The LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here.

UK: 16-year-old girl from Worthing arrested for aiming at police helicopter

A 16-year-old girl from Worthing was arrested October 31 2011 for endangering an aircraft with a laser. The South East Air Support Unit police helicopter was searching for a missing person when they were illuminated by a laser beam. The pilot and spotter located the source and called ground units. The teen was arrested with the laser.

From the
Worthing Herald

UK: Teens given 4-month sentence in north Hull laser attack

Two teenagers were sentenced to four months in jail for a “stupid [and] extremely dangerous” lasing of a police helicopter over north Hull.

Benjamin Ireland laser
Benjamin Ireland; four months in jail

Benjamin Ireland and Ryan Whybrow, both 19 years old, looked stunned as the judge sent them to young offenders’ institutes.

The two were at a party and were drinking when they decided to point green laser pens at a police helicopter “for a laugh”. The pilot and crew were flashblinded by repeated and continued illumination. The pilot made an emergency landing. Ground units directed to the location arrested Ireland and Whybrow.

The two pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft. At sentencing, the judge said he was sending “a very clear message … to anybody else who is minded to behave in this way.”

From
This Is Hull and East Riding

UK: Teen would not aim his laser at cars due to crash hazard, but felt helicopters were different

A U.K. teenager who told court he did not aim his green laser pen at a car “because it would probably make it crash” was sentenced to five months for instead aiming at a helicopter. According to the prosecutor, 18-year-old Jordan Burnett “did not apply the same logic to the helicopter because it was too far away.”

The incident happened on June 28 2011. An Essex police helicopter was flying over Chattenden when it was illuminated by green laser light in an “accurate and sustained attack.” The pilot lost his night vision and took evasive action. After returning to the scene, the helicopter was hit again. The beam was traced to Burnett’s home in Chattenden. He admitted to ground officers that he aimed at the helicopter. He said he had not believed the beam would reach that far.

Burnett pled guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced on October 27 2011. The sentencing judge said Burnett’s actions could have been potentially disastrous and devastating.

From
Kent Online

New Zealand: UPDATED - Laser charges dropped because of "good character"

A New Zealand man had charges of endangering transport dropped because of his “good character” and personal circumstances. James Paul Burton had been arrested for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter in December 2010. He was 19 at the time of his arrest.

His lawyer successfully argued that a conviction put Burton’s career plans at risk, as well as his application for New Zealand residency. The judge agreed, stating that the consequences for Burton outweighed the seriousness of the charges. Charges were dropped on October 25 2011.

From
Auckland Now. LaserPointerSafety.com previously reported on Burton’s case on September 17 2011.

US: Man charged in Detroit area helicopter incident; faces 20 years

Dennis Berthiaume was charged on October 26 2011 with aiming a green laser at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter pilot on August 25 2011. The pilot was momentarily startled and distracted by the first illumination, and was disoriented by a second strike in the eyes. An agent on the helicopter was also hit in the eyes, became disoriented and saw spots; subsequently seeking medical treatment.

The agent directed ground officers to Berthiaume’s home in Madison Heights, Michigan. He later told officers that he had used the laser three times, then hid it in a bedroom dresser after seeing the helicopter spotlight on his house.

Berthiaume faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.

From the
Detroit News

UK: Merseyside man charged in laser pen attack (UPDATE: 4-month sentence)

21-year-old David Checkley of Newton-le-Willows, was charged with recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft by St Helens police. On October 22 2011, a police air support helicopter was lased at about 1200 feet. Cameras in the craft identified Checkley’s house. Ground units found a four-inch long black laser pen. Checkley will face the St Helens Magistrates’ Court in November.

From the St Helens Star

UPDATE November 23 2011: Checkley pleaded guilty to “acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft”. He was sentenced to four months in jail, and his laser pen was destroyed by police. From the St. Helens Reporter

Canada: Man arrested for aiming at Calgary police helicopter

David Palvialok, 35, was arrested for aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter on October 25 2011. Calgary police were responding to a disturbance when they saw the beam. They tracked the laser and arrested Palvialok. He was charged with obstructing a peace officer, mischief, endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight, and creating a hazard to aviation safety.

From 660 News and CBC News

Pakistan: Pilot distracted for 15 minutes

A Pakistan International Airlines Airbus flight was flashed by a red laser beam for more than 15 minutes, while on final approach to Benazir Bhutto Airport on October 20 2011. The pilot told air traffic control he was distracted by the light which came from Mandra, about 25 miles south of the airport in Rawalpindi.

The airport manager said he would contact police, to try to find the person who tracked the aircraft with the laser.

From Dawn.com

UK: Teen jailed for 6 months for laser attack on commercial flight

A 19-year-old, whose lawyer said he had learning difficulties and was “immature,” was sentenced on October 20 2011 to six months in jail after pleading guilty to lasing a police helicopter.

On September 11 2011, the West Midlands Air Support helicopter was sent to investigate a report of a commercial flight that had been illuminated by a green laser. The police crew was themselves dazzled by a green laser, aimed from a car on the ground. They directed ground units to the car where Wayne Junior French was sitting. He admitted shining the laser at the helicopter.

The presiding judge in Birmingham Crown Court said French would have had a much longer sentence if convicted of dazzling the commercial flight. He said “I have no doubt at the time you didn’t think through what you were doing but it was a plainly deliberate act.”

French’s lawyer said French “does express genuine remorse and is absolutely terrified about custody. He hasn’t slept properly since he was arrested.”

From the
Birmingham Mail

US: Fort Worth teen given misdemeanor ticket for lasing air ambulance

A CareFlite medical helicopter was lased by a teenager as it took off from a hospital in Fort Worth to return to its base. The pilot was temporarily blinded but was able to hover over the area to direct officers to the laser beam’s location. A teenager was apprehended. He was given a Class C misdemeanor ticket.

From
MyFOXdfw.com

Canada: Family turns in child for aiming laser pointer at helicopter

A family in Severn Township, Ontario, admitted that they were responsible for an October 7 2011 incident when an Ontario Provincial Police helicopter was twice struck by a green laser beam. A crew member saw the beam in the sky and warned the pilot before the laser directly illuminated the cockpit. The pilot looked away and did not experience flash blindness.

The family came forward after police asked for the public’s assistance in finding the source of the beam. The family said they had just bought the laser pointer, and one of the younger children was pointing it into the sky. The said there was no intent to cause a problem and they now know better.

Because there was no criminal intent, no charges were brought.

From the Barrie Examiner. The paper also carried an earlier article describing the incident and how police were looking for the laser source.

US: Santa Ana man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

A Santa Ana (CA) man was arrested October 18 2011 for aiming a green laser pointer at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter. The pilot did not report any injury.

Daniel Abraham Garcia laser
Daniel Abraham Garcia

Daniel Abraham Garcia, 24, was charged with suspicion of pointing a laser at an aircraft, a felony. Garcia told police he was “messing around” and did not know that pointing at an aircraft was illegal.

From the
Orange County Register, Silicon Valley Mercury News, and KABC News

UK: Laser targets Gatwick-bound commercial flight "for miles"

A commercial flight was targeted “for several miles” by a green laser as it flew over Oxfordshire on October 18 2011, towards its destination of Gatwick Airport. Police were notified; the public was asked for its help in finding the perpetrator.

From
BBC News

UK: Police treat laser incidents as "prelude to missile attack"

After two laser incidents, a Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson said they treat such incidents as a possible terrorist threat: “Obviously a laser could be a prelude to a missile attack. We look at it with that level of seriousness.”

On October 14 2011, an Airbus carrying 180 persons was about three miles from Exeter (Devon) International Airport when the pilot reported a “blinding light”. Although “disturbed” by it, he was able to land safely. The same night, an aircraft with more than 60 persons on board was laser illuminated at Newquay Cornwall Airport, leaving the pilot “shaken”.

Police say the incidents are likely to be unrelated. A helicopter unsuccessfully sought the source of the Exeter laser beam.

From BBC News and This Is South Devon

Switzerland: CHF 7,700 fine for aiming laser at Montreaux helicopters

A 37-year-old Swiss man was fined a total of CHF 7,700 (USD $8,620) for an October 2010 illumination of two military helicopters flying near Montreaux. News reports said two crew members were injured by the laser; one went to a hospital for treatment. The injuries were not permanent.

Since the incident, “powerful” lasers have been outlawed in Switzerland, but pilots still report incidents. The Swiss emergency rescue team Rega says lasers have been pointed at their helicopters 16 times from January to October 2011.

From World Radio Switzerland. The original October 2010 story of the arrest and crew injuries is here.

US: Laser strike in St. Louis causes concern

A Frontier Airlines flight was illuminated by a green laser just after midnight October 7 2011. The incident happened as the plane was on approach, about 27 miles west of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

An airline spokesperson said there was no effect on the pilots. A police helicopter searched for suspects but did not find any. A St. Louis County Police Department spokesperson said county police are not investigating. The FAA and FBI were notified. STLtoday.com quoted an FBI spokesperson as saying the agency was not investigating because “no one was arrested and no one was hurt.” However, KSDK said the FBI was conducting an investigation.

St. Louis has been a focus since July, when local authorities held a media campaign to inform the public about the dangers and consequences of aiming at aircraft.

From
STLtoday.com and KSDK

Canada: Calgary laser incidents highlight growing concern

An Air Canada Jazz flight, and a WestJet flight on final approach to Calgary International Airport had their cockpits illuminated by a green laser, on September 18 2011. There were no injuries to the pilots. Police are searching an area between downtown Calgary and 36th Street S.E., but as of October 5 have not found any suspects.

There were 182 laser illuminations in Canada in 2010, according to Transport Canada. Fourteen of these took place in Alberta.

From the
Calgary Herald

UK: 13-year-old boy arrested in Slough

Police arrested a 13-year-old boy for aiming a laser pen at a Thames Valley Police helicopter flying over Slough on October 2 2011. Slough is a borough about 22 miles west of London, in Berkshire.

The teen was arrested on suspicion of endangering aircraft. He was released on bail until October 27.

From the
Maidenhead Advertiser and BBC News

Australia: Arrest for repeatedly aiming laser at police helicopter

On September 29 2011, a green laser pen was pointed five times in seven minutes at a police helicopter patrolling near North Rocks, a suburb about 26 km northwest of Sydney. The air crew identified the location and ground units arrested a 20-year-old in Glenwood, about 9 km from North Rocks.

The man was charged with possession or use of a prohibited weapon without permit, and an act threatening the safety of an aircraft with a person on board. He was granted bail.

From 9News, ABC Sydney and NSW Police Force

UK: "High powered" laser diverts police from 999 call

A police helicopter answering a 999 emergency call was diverted by a “high powered” green laser pointer as it flew near Coventry on September 28 2011. The helicopter was searching for intruders in a woman’s garden. A 16-year-old man and a 33-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of recklessly endangering an aircraft.

An air operations supervisor said “such acts defy belief.” He noted that police can easily locate laser offenders and ground units can arrive “very quickly.”

The Cambridge News said that in 2010, there were five incidents involving lasers being aimed at the Cambridgeshire police helicopter.

From the
Coventry Telegraph and the Cambridge News

Russia: Aeroflot pilot "barely averted" a crash due to teen aiming laser pointer

The pilot of an Airbus 320 with 128 people on board said he “barely averted a crash” after a laser beam “remained in the cockpit almost until the plane touched down”. The laser attack occurred at 5:49 a.m. local time September 22 2011 in Barnaul, capital of the Russian federal district Altai Krai, in Siberia. The laser was wielded by a 15-year-old boy who could not sleep and aimed a pointer out his window.

The boy told police that he “had not planned to blind the pilot and had only directed the beam at the flashing lights of the airplane.” Police said his parents would be fined 500 rubles (USD $15) for negligence.

The deputy chief of police at the Barnaul airport, Andrey Spiridonov, said that tragedy was avoided by a miracle.

Pic 2011-09-25 at 2.34.43 PM
The laser pointer being displayed by police; the boy’s apartment building, mother and bedroom window. Larger versions are in a
photo gallery at Altapress.ru.

Pic 2011-09-25 at 3.00.54 PM
Barnaul, Altai Krai federation, Siberia

Pic 2011-09-25 at 3.41.08 PM
It is about 4.5 miles from Barnaul Airport (red marker) to the boy’s apartment building (green marker) at 35 Sunny Glades. Click on map for a larger image.

Analysis, news links and additional details are after the jump (click “Read More…” below).

Click to read more...

US: Calif. woman arrested for aiming at helicopter

Kimberly Rogers, 27, was arrested on September 23 2011 for illuminating a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter with a green laser. She was charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft and was being held in jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Pic 2011-09-26 at 2.01.54 PM
Kimberly Rogers

The incident came while the helicopter was searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a commercial airplane landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Rogers has not been accused or charged in that incident.

The sheriff’s department said there have been seven illuminations of their flight crews in the past 12 months, resulting in five arrests.

Pic 2011-09-25 at 7.31.16 AM
Rogers’ home in Compton (“A” on the map)
is about 9.5 miles from Los Angeles International Airport

From the Los Angeles Times

US: Coast Guard helicopter distracted by laser after Calif. search and rescue mission

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter was illuminated multiple times by a green laser on September 17 2011. It was returning from a search and rescue distress call when it was hit by the laser light south of Humboldt Bay. The Coast Guard said “the pilot at the controls was not affected by the laser and the aircraft remained under control.”

From
Military.com News

UK: Chard man did not think laser would reach helicopter

Marc Webster was lying in bed at 1:45 am on August 30 2011 when he heard a police helicopter over his home in Chard, Somerset. He picked up a laser pen from his window sill -- he usually used it to point at trees and scare birds away -- and aimed it at the helicopter. Webster later told police “he pointed the laser at the helicopter to see if it would reach, but [he] did not think it did.”

Pilot Paul Maddox was unable to continue investigating a car crime, and broke off his mission. He and two other officers were dazzled by the laser light. Webster said he aimed the laser for less than 15 seconds; the officers in the helicopter said it was around five minutes.

On September 22, Webster pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled for October 14.

A news report said Webster, 45, was a drug user: “He said it had been a crazy day after he went out in the morning to score some heroin, but believes he was instead given ketamine, which didn’t treat him well.”

From This Is The West Country

UPDATE October 19 2011: Webster was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for two years, with a two-year supervision order. He avoided jail because he was the sole caregiver for his 16-year-old son.

The sentencing judge said “The message should go out that people tempted to target helicopters in this idiotic and dangerous way should expect a custodial sentence. It’s absurd that these completely pointless toys are used to distract and disable helicopters engaged in the task of serious public good. You’re very lucky that some serious accident didn’t happen as a result of your action. You’re not going to jail by only the thinnest skin of your teeth. I don’t see why your son – in a very difficult family situation – should have that done as a result of your stupidity.” From This Is The West Country.

US: 14-year-old arrested for lasing, interrupting police search

Marc Webster was lying in bed at 1:45 am on August 30 2011 when he heard a police helicopter over his home in Chard, Somerset. He picked up a laser pen from his window sill -- he usually used it to point at trees and scare birds away -- and aimed it at the helicopter. Webster later told police “he pointed the laser at the helicopter to see if it would reach, but [he] did not think it did.”

Pilot Paul Maddox was unable to continue investigating a car crime, and broke off his mission. He and two other officers were dazzled by the laser light. Webster said he aimed the laser for less than 15 seconds; the officers in the helicopter said it was around five minutes.

On September 22, Webster pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled for October 14.

A news report said Webster, 45, was a drug user: “He said it had been a crazy day after he went out in the morning to score some heroin, but believes he was instead given ketamine, which didn’t treat him well.”

From This Is The West Country

New Zealand: "Future career is on the line" for 20-year-old who aimed at a police helicopter

A 20-year-old New Zealand man who pleaded guilty to “endangering transport” by lasing an aircraft is asking for leniency because a conviction will affect his employment and travel.

In December 2010, James Paul Burton aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter. Police said Burton -- 19 at the time -- admitted the act and said he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. (The Auckland Now story did not say how the incident affected the pilot or the flight.)

On September 16 2011, Burton’s lawyer told the court the act was done stupidly without thinking, after drinking with friends. She asked that Burton be discharged without conviction due to his age and future career plans. In 2007, Burton had arrived in New Zealand with his mother and sister, and all three are applying for residency. A conviction would affect his residency and his ability to find work and travel overseas. In turn, those restrictions could impact his ability to complete his studies in marine biology.

New Zealand does have a seven-year “clean slate” law, but his lawyer argued that Burton needed to complete his studies, apply for residency and find work before 2018.

From
Auckland Now

UPDATE OCTOBER 27 2011: The judge agreed with Burton’s lawyer, that the consequences for Burton’s career and residency application outweighed the seriousness of his offense. The charges were dropped. More details are in an October 27 story in Auckland Now.

UK: Laser pen aimed at vehicles and plane

A green laser was aimed at motorists near Witney, 12 miles west of Oxford, at about the same time that a commercial aircraft reported a green laser as it flew over Witney. Police are searching for the persons involved in the incidents.

Police received several calls that a group of people in a silver people carrier was shining a green laser on the A40 near Witney, at about 8 p.m on September 15 2011. Police also were contacted by air traffic control staff after an aircraft was targeted with a green laser at 8 p.m. The police declined to release details of the flight or its effect, if any, on the flight until statements had been taken from the pilots and crew. The fine for aiming at aircraft is up to £2,500.

From the Witney Gazette. This news item is being cross-posted in on the News/Non-aviation incidents page as well.

Northern Ireland: Laser aimed at east Belfast police helicpter

A laser pen was aimed at a helicopter of the Police Service of Northern Ireland on September 16 2011. No suspect has been arrested, but police have spoken to a 50-year-old man, and the investigation continues. A spokesperson said "If life is lost as a result of this behaviour, those involved could not only face charges of being in possession of a dangerous weapon but could also end up facing manslaughter charges.”

From BBC News

US: Long saga of Frank Newton Anderson appears over: probation and $4000 fine

The long saga of Frank Newton Anderson has ended with one year’s probation and a $4000 fine on a federal charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. Anderson faced up to 20 years in prison for lasing an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on April 13 2010.

He pleaded guilty in December 2010, and had his judge resign in June 2011 because prosecutors would not reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. The judge called Anderson “an idiot, not a criminal.” A new judge was assigned, and Anderson was sentenced in July 2011, according to an article appearing in the Orlando Sentinel on September 15 2011.

Anderson’s laser case was especially interesting since it paralleled the gunfire case of Jason Dennis McGuire. He was arrested March 21 2010 in Orlando for firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. McGuire was sentenced April 26 2011 to 12 1/2 years in prison.

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: Laser aimed at Boise medical helicopter; police seek perpetrator

A LifeFlight medical helicopter with a patient inside was illuminated by green laser light as it flew over north Boise, Idaho on September 12 2011. Boise Police and the Transportation Safety Administration are asking anyone with information on the unknown perpetrator to come forward. The agencies noted that fines can reach up to $25,000, and there could be up to a 20-year sentence.

From the Idaho Statesman. A short video report is at KTVB.

Wales: Six month sentence for misuse of brand-new laser

A 21-year-old from Newport, Wales, was given a six-month sentence in a young offender’s institution for illuminating a police helicopter. Ross McDonnell-Jones had purchased a green laser pen on October 11 2010. The next day, he aimed it at the helicopter, which was at an altitude of 3,000 feet. The pilot “lost his night vision and had to tilt his head away from the light, causing him to lose sight of the instruments and putting the aircraft in momentary danger”, according to the prosecutor. The laser attack lasted about five minutes.

McDonnell-Jones admitted aiming the laser outside but said he did not see the helicopter. The pen was found hidden under a baby’s mattress in the man’s home.

From the
South Wales Argus

UK: UPDATED - Laser pens prevent medical copter from landing

A medical helicopter was unable to land to pick up a patient, after laser pens were aimed at the aircraft. The patient was then put into a waiting ambulance for land transportation. He died enroute to the hospital. Officials said they do not believe the delay affected the outcome, but called it a “serious offense” and are looking for the persons involved.

Late on September 7 2011, paramedics and an ambulance responded to a call about an elderly man who had collapsed in Caine, Wiltshire. They found the man had gone into cardiac arrest, and they called for the assistance of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance helicopter. It landed at the site but then took off again to burn fuel in order to carry the patient. As it tried to land for a second time, a “group of yobs” flashed laser pens at the pilot. He broke off the landing. The patient was then taken by ambulance to Great Western Hospital in Swindon, 20 miles away by road. Upon arrival, the man was pronounced dead after midnight on September 8.

Police said “at this stage, we are satisfied that the helicopter not being able to land did not affect the outcome of this incident.” They are searching for the laser-wielding perpetrators and are beginning a criminal investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call (0845) 4087000.

From The Independent , Wiltshire Times and BBC News

UPDATE September 15 2011: A story in the Gazette and Herald has some additional details about the incident.

UPDATE 2 March 15 2012: The two persons involved, Alex Cox and Luke Fortune, pleaded guilty. They had to pay £278 each and were given a conditional discharge (no punishment provided that no further offense is committed). More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com news item here.

Australia: Man aims at police helicopter, could be jailed for 2 years (UPDATED)

A 21-year-old Cranbourne man at a Hampton Park party aimed a laser at a police helicopter on September 3 2011. The incident was captured on infrared video, and the man was captured. He was charged with interference with an aircraft, reckless conduct endangering life, and possession of a prohibited weapon. The interference charge carries a maximum two year jail sentence. His court appearance has been set for November 24 2011.

A Victoria Police spokesman said Melbourne has the highest number of incidents involving laser light, and “these incidents are occurring far too frequently….”

From
The Age, Herald Sun and ABC News

UPDATE November 24 2011: Tam Nguyen pleaded guilty on November 24 2011. He was fined a total of AUD $3500. Details are in this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

US: Man charged with aiming at vehicles and sheriff's helicopter

Christopher Marden, 20, admitted aiming a laser pointer at vehicles on an Interstate highway, then turning it on a Seminole County sheriff’s helicopter on September 4 2011. The laser attacks lasted about 5-7 minutes, according to the man’s companions. The incident occurred in DeBary, Florida, roughly halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach. The helicopter had been assisting in a suspect search.

Christopher Marden laser
Christopher Marden

The Deltona man was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver/pilot, and could also be fined up to $11,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration.

From the
Daytona Beach News-Journal and WFTV

UK: Pilot dazzled, breaks off police work to arrest 45-year-old

A police helicopter broke off pursuit of suspects after the pilot was dazzled by a green laser pen, early in the morning on September 6 2011. The Western Counties Air Operations Unit was able to guide ground officers in Chard to the location. A 45-year-old man was arrested and charged with directing or shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle the pilot. The suspects involved in the original incident, a vehicle break-in, were arrested separately.

From
This Is The West Country

UK: Helicopter catches Southampton laser pen suspects

Three persons were arrested August 27 2011 after aiming lasers at a police helicopter searching for the source of an earlier laser illumination of a Flybe aircraft landing at Southampton Airport. Thermal imaging equipment was used to locate two youths, both 17, and a 20-year-old man. Three laser pens were recovered.

The three persons were arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. They were held overnight. The teens were referred to the Youth Offending Team while the man received a caution.

From BBC News and the Daily Mail

US: Orlando teen suspected in multiple lasings of planes

After a rash of Orlando-area laser illuminations on commercial aircraft, a helicopter searching for suspects was illuminated six times by 17-year-old Stefano Fronte-Liporacci. The Venezuelan student was in possession of a green laser when he was arrested by ground units on August 28 2011. He was charged with knowingly aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, a felony.

Pic 2011-08-30 at 5.40.44 PM
Fronte-Liporacci was arrested at a home (“A” above) near Orlando International Airport.


Beginning on August 24, pilots from Jet Blue, Southwest and Atlantic Coast Airlines had reported a total of four laser incidents. This prompted the August 28 search by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

From My Fox Orlando and ClickOrlando.com

Italy: Turin airport has five laser attacks in August

Five laser attacks have occurred at the Turin-Caselle airport in August. All involved a green laser, located close to the airport, aimed at airliners on approach or while landing. Police are looking for the perpetrator. He or she would be charged with “publicly using unauthorized objects with a nature to offend.”

Class 3B and 4 lasers (for visible continuous output lasers, above 500 mW) have been banned in Italy since 1998, according to AvioNews.

From
AvioNews

US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson pleads not guilty in laser incident; faces up to three years

Clark James Gable III, 22, was charged on August 23 2011 with three felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Gable, grandson of the famous actor, faces three years in prison if convicted.

The charges stem from an incident July 28 where Gable aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter, temporarily flashblinding two officers on board.

From TMZ and Reuters

UPDATE August 26 2011: Gable pleaded not guilty to the charges at his August 26 arraignment. He was freed on $250,000 bail. His next court appearance will be September 8, at a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial. From the Contra Costa Times

UPDATE December 8 2011: Gable pleaded guilty to one felony count of discharging a laser at an aircraft. In return, other counts were dropped. At sentencing January 12 2012, prosecutors are expected to ask for a 10 day jail sentence plus 200 days on a work crew. See news item here.

UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
.

Canada: Winnipeg man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 30-year-old Winnipeg man used a green laser pointer to illuminate a police helicopter four times on August 20 2011. By using “technology on the chopper,” the crew were able to direct officers on the ground. The man was arrested about 10 minutes after the illuminations. He was charged with assault with a weapon and projection of a directed bright light source at an aircraft.

From the Toronto Sun, CJOB 68 and CBC News (which also has photos of the laser pointer and the man being arrested)

Austria: Teen "hooligans" arrested for lasing rescue helicopter

Teenaged “hooligans” were arrested after a medical rescue helicopter was lased in the Austrian town of Steyr on August 17 2011. The aircraft was illuminated when landing at a hospital to deliver a seriously injured patient; the pilot had green laser light in his eyes. The helicopter was also illuminated again when taking off. The pilots called the police while they circled overhead to identify the beam source.

Two teens were arrested, one 17 and one 19, for endangering air safety. They face up to 10 years in prison.

From The Voice of Russia and Austrian Wings

US: 1-watt blue laser used for first time, in Glendale illumination

A 1-watt blue laser was aimed twice at a Glendale CA police helicopter on August 14 2011. 30-year-old Avo Garabedian was arrested by ground units directed to his location.

From La Canada Valley Sun

ADDITIONAL INFO: This is the first aviation incident in which it is confirmed that a 1-watt blue handheld laser was used. LaserPointerSafety.com has learned that Garabedian used a Wicked Lasers Spyder III Arctic. This was the first widely sold 1-watt blue handheld laser; it received significant worldwide press attention when it was introduced in June 2010.

Below are some additional facts and links about this type of laser.Click to read more...

Australia: Laser aimed at aircraft near Sydney

A commercial aircraft was illuminated by a green laser aimed from the Cronulla area of Sydney, just after takeoff on an August 13 2011 flight to Canberra. Miranda Police searched for the perpetrator without success. The New South Wales police put out a press release asking for the public’s help in finding who lased the airplane.

From 9 News and the NSW Police

UK: 15-year-old arrested for lasing Northumbria copter

A 15-year-old boy was arrested for “shining a light so as to distract a pilot”. He aimed a green laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter as it flew over South Shields at 2:00 am local time on August 12 2011.

From BBC News and the Sunday Sun

Lithuania: Several pilots flashblinded

There have been several recent cases of pilots being temporarily blinded by green laser beams while landing at Vilnius International Airport, in the capital of Lithuania. On August 11, two planes were illuminated. Pilots located the general area, but police driving to the scene were unable to locate the laser. Laser beams also lit up aircraft on August 10 and August 9.

Police are asking the public for any information. A police spokesman said the lasers were “powerful enough to cause permanent eye damage.”

From
Taiwan News and Kiev Post

US: Laser incident in St. Louis, one week after publicity push

A police department helicopter flying over St. Louis County was illuminated multiple times by a green laser beam August 3 2011. A news story states the “entire” cockpit was not illuminated, but a TV news report said the cockpit was “completely illuminated.” The person aiming at the helicopter has not be found as of August 6.

This incident comes just over one week after an FBI/police media effort in St. Louis to inform residents about laser/aircraft hazards.

From STLtoday.com and KSDK TV (which has a video report online)

Wales: Three boys arrested after lasing helicopter

Three boys were arrested for aiming lasers at a police helicopter in Cardiff. The boys are 12, 13 and 14, were charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft. A police spokesperson said the incident “may be viewed as a harmless prank … [but] could have fatal consequences.”

From BBC News North East Wales

Ireland: Rescue helicopter distracted by laser

An Irish Coast Guard helicopter was distracted by a green laser beam “throughout” a rescue operation in Bray on July 27 2011. Gardai are asking for anyone with knowledge of the perpetrator to contact them.

From
Bray People. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

Scotland: Laser causes "considerable distraction" during sea rescue

The crew of a Royal Navy rescue helicopter, helping in a sea rescue August 1 2011, suffered “considerable distraction” from a laser beam. The Sea King helicopter was on standby to help assist local police and coastguard personnel rescuing a woman in the water at Saltcoats, on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire, Scotland.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said the lasing was “extremely reckless and irresponsible behaviour…. Had we been in the middle of a rescue, this person’s actions could have jeopardized our ability to continue.”

Strathclyde Police were notified; as yet no suspect has been identified.

From BBC News. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

Canada: Oshawa teen arrested after lasing copter. UPDATE: Five more teens charged

An 18-year-old was arrested after a “strong” green laser strike on a Durham Regional Police helicopter, on July 29 2011. An officer on the aircraft (not the pilot) experienced “vision problems” and was examined at a local hospital. Robert Roughly was arrested at his home on Dunrobin Court in Oshawa, 60 miles northwest of Toronto.

Pic 2011-08-11 at 6.11.46 AM
Roughly’s home is within a kilometer of Oshawa Airport


The teenager faces the following charges:

  • Project Bright Light Source at Aircraft (Canadian Aviation Act)
  • Interfere with Performance of Duties of any Crew Member (Aeronautics Act)
  • Lessen the Ability of any Crew Member to Perform Duties (Aeronautics Act)
  • Assault with a Weapon Causing Bodily Harm
  • Mischief Endangering Life
  • Common Nuisance
Each charge under the Aeronautics Act has a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or five years in prison.

From
680 News and Oye! Times

UPDATE August 8 2011: Investigators announced the arrests of five more teens: Dale Branton, Alana Capesky, Andrew Capesky, Curtis Lee, and Aaron Mountjoy. Each person is 18 years old. The five teens were charged with the same counts as Roughly (see list above). According to the National Post, “Witness testimony and unspecified investigations led police to allege that the six accused took turns passing the laser around and aiming it at the helicopter.” From CityTV Toronto, Canoe.ca, DurhamRegion.com and the National Post

US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson arrested for laser illumination of LAPD helicopter

Clark Gable III was arrested for aiming a green laser at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter on July 28 2011. The 22*-year-old was driving through Hollywood at the time. He told police that he tried to point at the famed Hollywood sign, but missed.

According to police spokeswoman Sara Faden, the LAPD helicopter pilots observed “a green laser light shining on them and at that time they requested additional ground units to come to the scene. They observed a vehicle with two occupants and they found the laser that was shined on the airship and they were both taken into custody."Click to read more...

UK: North London teen gets 6 month jail sentence

19-year-old Islam Ali was handed a six month jail sentence after pleading guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft. On March 6 2011 the teen was using a green laser pen outdoors and “wanted to see how far it would go.” He aimed at a police helicopter pilot who was flying an armed response team to a shooting incident. One press account said the pilot was temporarily blinded while another said that at 1,500 feet “the strength of the beam was not sufficient to affect [the pilot’s] vision.”

According to the judge, “this was an extremely serious offence which could have ended in several fatalities” to those on board and on the ground.

From the Daily Express and Willesden & Brent Times

US: Pilots complain of pain; Philly man arrested

A Philadelphia police helicopter was lased multiple times during a routine patrol on July 27 2011. The pilot and co-pilot both complained of momentary pain and blurred vision, so police began to search for the perpetrator. They found Brian Lawhon, 23, with a green laser described as a black pen cylinder six inches long. The Hunting Park man was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, simple assault, causing or risking a catastrophe, and possessing an instrument of crime.

Brian Lawhon laser


From
NBC Philadelphia, CBS Philly, 6ABC.com and the Philadelphia Inquirer

Canada: $5000 fine for aiming at three aircraft

On July 26 2011, a 39-year-old Calgary man was fined CDN $5000 for aiming a “Class 3” green laser pointer at a small plane, a small jet and a traffic helicopter. Chris Saulnier pleaded guilty to the January 5 2011 illuminations. He was identified via video taken from the helicopter and turned over to the police.

His lawyer said Saulnier had an interest in astronomy, and was “not thinking about the consequences, he’s just thinking and wondering whether his beam can hit what he thought was the belly of the airplane.... In hindsight, he knows the seriousness of it and accepts responsibility...”

From the
Calgary Herald

UPDATE July 28 2011: Representatives of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Saulnier was not a RASC member, and did not represent responsible amateur astronomy. More details are here.

US: Helicopter pilot describes laser effects

The pilot of a medical helicopter described the effects of a July 16 2011 laser illumination. Roger Catlin said he closed one eye and hoped the exposed eye would not be damaged. He said the two or three flashes in about 30 seconds were “pretty distracting” due to worries about being able to fly.

No one has yet been caught in the incident, which took place over Terrell, Texas which is about 30 miles east of Dallas.

From NBCDFW.com

UK: 6 months in jail for "dangerous idiot" laser pen offender

A 23-year-old Newcastle area man was sentenced on July 26 2011 to 6 months in jail for repeatedly aiming a laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter around 1 am on June 6. Richard Anthony Oliver was outside his house in South Shields, and admitted the offence. He had purchased the laser pen while on holiday in Turkey, according to his lawyer, and “he accepts that it was a stupid, silly thing to do.”


6 months for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter

The judge called Oliver a “dangerous idiot” for illuminating the helicopter “for a considerable amount of time.”

In addition to the 6-month laser pen sentence, Oliver received another 6 months in jail on an unrelated theft charge.

From the Shields Gazette, Chronicle Live and BBC News. See also the Shields Gazette June 21 2011 story about Oliver’s guilty plea, and LaserPointerSafety.com’s original news item about the June 6 incident.

UK: Teens aim laser at helicopter; disrupt river rescue

A Cambridgeshire police helicopter was targeted by a laser beam as it assisted firefighters rescuing a woman from a river. The pilot reported that the light “could have temporarily blinded him.”

Police located and spoke with three teens: a boy (15) and two girls (14 and 16). So far, no charges have been filed in the July 22 2011 incident. An investigation is ongoing.

From
Cambridge News. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

UPDATE October 3 2011: The Cambridge News reports that the boy has been “reprimanded” and has been “dealt with by the police.” The reprimand was for a first offense. If there is a second offense, a final warning would be issued. On the third offense, the person would be charged and sent to court. From the Cambridge News.

US: St. Louis area publicity warns against pointing at aircraft

The case of a man arrested for aiming a laser at a police helicopter, was the subject of an FBI press conference for St. Louis-area media on July 26 2011. 26-year-old Justin E. Stouder of O’Fallon, Missouri, described how he aimed a green laser at a police helicopter on April 27 2010. One of the pilots said the illumination was similar to a camera flash. Stouder kept hitting the helicopter. Police converged on his home and he was arrested, spending the night in jail. Although Stouder was charged with “obstructing government operations” on May 14 2010, he successfully completed a one-year pretrial diversion program and thus has no additional penalty and no criminal record. (KSDK did note that Stouder “lost two career opportunities while his case was pending.”)


This screenshot shows Stouder at the FBI press conference where he apologized to the pilots. The full video is at KSDK.com

The conference was held to bring attention to the potential dangers of lasing aircraft. The agent in charge and the U.S. assistant attorney both stressed that the next person to be charged may face much stronger penalties than Stouder did.

From
stltoday.com. A video interview with the FBI agent-in-charge is available at Fox 2 Now.

Russia: Laser beam shines on Moscow airplane

Moscow police are searching for the person who aimed a laser beam at an aircraft landing at Domodedovo Airport on July 25 2010. Three incidents also happened at the same airport in June, according to authorities.

In a related story, Russia Today has posted a video showing what it looks like to be in an aircraft during a laser illumination:


Frame showing point of maximum dazzle when a laser beam hits the aircraft’s cockpit window. Click to see the
YouTube video.

From UPI, and from Russia Today via YouTube

UPDATE July 28 2011: Bloomberg quotes news agency RIA Novosti as saying a suspect was caught on July 27. The 26-year-old told police “he couldn’t even imagine that his actions could cause a plane to crash.” The news agency says the suspect was 40 kilometers from the airport on Kosygin (Kosygina) Street in western Moscow.


The map shows the suspect’s location (A) in relation to Domodedovo Airport (B)

UK: Birmingham-area man claims dog, not copter, was his target; judge disagrees

A judge rejected the claim that a Small Heath man was trying to attract his dog’s attention when he aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter flying over Birmingham. Joshua Bough, 28, had admitted endangering the safety of an aircraft in the March 28 2011 incident, but said it was not deliberate. Bough claimed his puppy had run off and “he used the laser pen to attract the dog’s attention because sometimes it would get lost and confused in the dark.”

Judge John Maxwell said the account was not supported by video footage of the incident. The judge further warned Bough that he should expect a prison sentence.

From the Birmingham Mail

UPDATE August 24 2011: Bough was sentenced to 16 months in jail. Judge Maxwell said the situation was “intolerable” and added “If we are to avoid the terrible consequences that will sooner or later follow if people behave as you did, the court will do what it can to protect the public and punish the offender.” From the Birmingham Mail

UK: 3 month sentence for Newcastle teen

On July 22 2011, 18-year-old David Taylor of Newcastle began a three month sentence in a young offender’s institute, for aiming a green laser pen multiple times at a Northumbria Police helicopter. The pilot was forced to change course during the March 12 2011 incident. Taylor was later convicted of recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft.

A police spokesperson said “I hope this sentence sends out the message to others that this sort of behaviour is not a game or a prank, it’s extremely serious .... they are committing a criminal offence.”

From
Chronicle Live and BBC News

US: UPDATED - Student faces three legal actions after lasing medical helicopter from tower

University of Pittsburgh student James Gabriel Parisi is in trouble with the university, local police and the Federal Aviation Administration after he admitted aiming a laser towards medical helicopters.

Paresi, 20, faces university judicial board hearings with penalties that could include expulsion. He was also charged by University of Pittsburgh police with two felony counts of “causing or risking a catastrophe.” Finally, an FAA spokesperson said they will pursue civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.

On July 17 2011, at midnight and again at 3 am, medical evacuation helicopters reported seeing green beams coming from the University’s “Cathedral of Learning” skyscraper. Police confronted a group of students leaving the building after the second laser incident. Parisi, 20, spoke privately to an officer and said that he was the one who had been using a laser pointer.

Parisi was also found to have a fake Virginia driver’s license. He was additionally charged by the police with carrying a false identification card.


The 42-story Cathedral of Learning is the tallest educational building in the Western hemisphere. Photo by Flickr user bombnomnom (Anthony Velázquez) under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.


From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

UPDATED February 28 2012: Parisi is awaiting trial on two state felony counts of “risking a catastrophe”. He could be fined up to $15,000 and receive up to seven years in prison on each charge. In addition, he faces $11,000 in fines from the FAA on each count. His attorney was quoted as saying “My client is a good kid. He just made a mistake. He obviously regrets anything that happened that night.” From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

US: Tucson man arrested; video shows laser illumination

20-year-old Alama Nicholson Jeffs was charged with two counts of endangerment for aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter in Tucson, on July 13 2011. The light disoriented the crew, but no injuries were reported.

Jeffs is also suspected of aiming a day earlier towards aircraft landing at Tucson International Airport; charges have not yet been brought.


The night before the arrest, commercial aircraft approaching Tucson International Airport reported lasers coming from the area of Ryan Field. The suspect’s home (A) is about 4 miles from Ryan Field, and is 11 miles from TIA.

The helicopter illumination, and subsequent tracking of Jeffs by night vision camera, was captured on video released by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department:


Click to see the full video

From the Green Valley News

US: Pilot's video & research helps FBI find & convict Chicago-area man

A pilot’s videotaped research helped the FBI find a laser pointer in a door-to-door search, in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield. The pointer’s owner, Jason G. Heeringa was arrested in 2010. On July 12 2011 the 29-year-old pleaded guilty in a plea bargain arrangement to misdemeanor counts of aggravated assault and battery.


Two years probation, $250 fine and 240 hours of community service

Essential to the conviction was a video analysis done by a pilot who had been illuminated multiple times by Heeringa.

Click to read more...

US: San Diego teen faces three years; video will be evidence

A San Diego teenager admitted to police arresting him that he pointed a laser at a police helicopter on July 11 2011. Jose Gallardo Rincon, 18, gave officers his laser pointer. He was charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. This felony carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.

Rincon was held on $25,000 bail. His lawyer argued, unsuccessfully, that Rincon did not present a danger to the community since he has no previous criminal record.


San Diego police released a video of the laser illumination.


From CBS8 and NBC San Diego. Both sources have video showing the illumination.

UPDATE, July 27 2011: Rincon’s trial was set for September 15, according to NBC San Diego.

UPDATE 2, September 15 2011: Rincon pleaded guilty to the felony charge of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. He will be sentenced on September 13 2012. If Rincon does not commit any new crimes during the one-year timespan, the charge will likely be reduced to a misdemeanor. That would reduce his maximum possible sentence from three years in prison (for a felony) to one year in county jail (for a misdemeanor). From Sign On San Diego.

US: LA police arrest 20-year-old after series of incidents

An unnamed 20-year-old man was arrested July 12 2011 for aiming a laser pointer at a Los Angeles police helicopter. The green beam illuminated the pilot’s eyes.

A police spokesman said there had been reports of green laser beams pointed at LAPD and news helicopters in the Glassell Park area, in the previous two weeks. There was no immediate indication whether the arrested man was responsible.

From
DailyBreeze.com

US: 12-year-old Tulsa boy wanted to say "hello" with laser to pilot

A 12-year-old boy aimed a green laser at a Tulsa, OK police helicopter “to say hello to the pilot”, according to a police spokesperson. The incident happened around midnight July 10 2011. Police on the ground, alerted by the pilot, found the boy in the parking lot of the Tulsa Mosque.

The incident will be reported to the FAA laser database. There is no word of any additional charges that might be brought against the boy.

From
Newson6.com

Australia: Laser targets plane at Sydney airport

A green laser beam was aimed at a passenger aircraft as it took off from Sydney Airport the evening of July 8 2011. New South Wales police are asking for public assistance in finding the perpetrator. The laser is thought to have come from the Hurstville area in south Sydney.

From a
NSW Police press release and Sky News Australia

US: 4 people arrested in Louisville KY incident

Four people were arrested after pilots in a Louisville Metro Police helicopter were temporarily blinded by green laser light while in flight on July 7 2011. One report said the light came from a car driving on Interstate 64. Another report, from WHAS11, said the pilot was forced to land due to the laser attack.

The four suspects, all in their 20’s, fled across the state border, pursued by police. Joy McElwain, Steven Springer and Brian C. Enlow were arrested in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They have been charged with first-degree wanton endangerment and fleeing police. Jason A. Hill was arrested separately; charges in the laser incident will be brought against him shortly.

In addition to the state charges, authorities are considering also bringing federal charges.

From
WLKY.com, the Courier-Journal.com, and WHAS11 News

US: Phoenix man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

24-year-old Conrad Rzewuski was charged with two counts of felony endangerment for aiming a green laser at a Phoenix, AZ police helicopter on July 6 2011. There was no immediate report of direct pilot illumination.

In June, Phoenix’s police chief said incidents will be dealt with severely: “We’ll charge them with endangerment, aggravated assault, and interfering with a flight crew.”

Conrad Rzewuski laser
Conrad Rzewuski

From AZfamily.com and Phoenix New Times

Ireland: Man found innocent of "recklessly" illuminating garda helicopter

A jury has found a Tallaght man not guilty of endangerment in a September 12 2009 incident where a garda (police) helicopter pilot was dazzled with a laser pen. During the incident, the helicopter pilot took his hands off the controls in order to block out the green laser beams, which tracked the helicopter. In addition, a fellow crew member said she suffered pain in her eyes and temporary vision loss.

When arrested, Anthony Gaffney, 25, told gardai that he did not realize the laser hazard: “I wasn’t trying to dazzle the pilot. I definitely didn’t mean to cause any hassle. I apologise for wasting police time”.

He was charged with “intentionally or recklessly engaging in conduct creating a substantial risk of death or serious injury to another”. During the two-day trial, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Judge Patricia Ryan instructed the jury that the State’s case was not that Gaffney acted intentionally, but that he acted recklessly. She then read the legal definition: “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.”

The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before returning a not guilty verdict.

From BreakingNews.ie (before the verdict), and from Herald.ie and RTÉ (after the verdict)

US: UPDATED - Protective laser glasses help catch L.A. lasing suspects

Two Los Angeles men were arrested on multiple charges for lasing a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter on July 4 2011. Floyd Atkins, 22, and Alvaro Jimenez, 20, are also being investigated for a string of incidents over the past six months, where lasers were aimed at law enforcement helicopters and at airliners landing at Los Angeles International Airport.


“A” marks the arrest location, about 9 miles from Los Angeles International Airport

LaserPointerSafety.com initially reported this as a “sting” operation, based on an NBC LA report that “the LAPD ran a high-flying sting to pinpoint the location of their two attackers.” However, other news sources indicated that there was no pre-planned effort to draw out laser users. DailyBreeze.com quoted a police spokesman as saying that “a police helicopter on regular patrol was hit with a green laser, and the crew was able to pinpoint the general location of the beam.... A second flight crew that was replacing the first unit brought protective glasses with them based on the earlier reports. The second crew was soon hit with the same green laser, and reported to police on the ground the exact location of the laser.”

The LAPD is contacting the FBI. Additional state and federal charges may be filed.

From DailyBreeze.com, NBC Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and KABC 7.

UPDATE July 28 2011: NoIR informs us that the glasses used were their “GlareShield” models. These were developed with input from LAPD pilots. More on laser protective eyewear for pilots is here.

UPDATE July 26 2012: Floyd Atkins was found guilty of one felony count of pointing laser beams at a helicopter. He will be sentenced August 3 and faces up to three years in prison. Alvaro Jimenez pleaded no contest to the same charge earlier in 2012. From MyNews3.

UPDATE November 1 2012: Floyd Atkins was sentenced on Nov. 1 to one year in county jail and two years probation. He also had to pay $200 in fines and fees. According to the deputy district attorney, Atkins “still doesn’t accept responsibility.” Alvarado Jimenez was sentenced in September 2012 to 60 days of Caltrans service and three years probation. From the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Russia: Some Rostov-on-Don laser attacks due to insurgents? (UPDATE: Maybe not...)

In five June incidents, pilots were temporarily blinded in the city of Rostov-on-Don. Incidents occurred on approach to the Rostov-on-Don airport on June 3, June 7 and twice within an hour on June 23. In addition, the pilot of a police helicopter was blinded in mid-June. German news agency DPA reported that “insurgents in the Caucasus region were responsible” for these laser attacks.Click to read more...

US: Felony counts in Calif. case dropped after plea bargain

A California man arrested in December 2010 for aiming a green laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter reached a plea bargain agreement. 39-year-old Kevin Wayne Foster pleaded “no contest” on June 20 2011 to two misdemeanors: interfering with an aircraft, and pointing a laser at a peace officer. He was sentenced to time served. In addition, the pilot who was temporarily blinded in the incident suggested that Foster give presentations to schools and others on the hazards of pointing lasers at aircraft. Foster was therefore also sentenced to 100 hours of community service giving such presentations.

Two felony charges were dropped: assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and discharging a laser. Foster could have faced more than four years in prison if convicted of these felonies.


Two misdemeanors, time served in jail, and 100 hours of community service

From the Redding Record Searchlight. Details about the December 6 2010 incident are here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

US: Fontana Calif. teen arrested

Eric Sandoval, 19, was charged with pointing a laser at a Fontana police helicopter on June 18 2011. According to an officer who was in the helicopter, lasers have been aimed at the chopper “numerous times in the past” from the general area where Sandoval was arrested.

Fontana is near San Bernardino, and is about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

From the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

India: Red lights thought impossible to be lasers

Indian aviation officials have doubts that a mysterious red light, being aimed at aircraft landing at Chennai Airport, is a laser. A spokesperson said it is “impossible to track an aircraft flying at high altitude using laser pointer lights.... Laser is an invisible spectrum and cannot be targeted at aircraft flying at high altitudes”. A press account noted that aircraft are at “over 1,000 feet while coming in to land.” The article also said that planes overseas are often targeted using “green LED lights” but this has not been reported in India.

From the
Times of India

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: The spokesperson does not seem well informed. Lasers can emit visible light; red and green are the most common colors for pointers and handheld lasers. Further, light from a pointer or handheld laser can be visible to pilots at many thousands or even tens of thousands of feet. LED lights have a much broader beam and thus far, there have been no reports of an LED flashlight or device being used to interfere with pilot vision while airborne.

UPDATE, June 26 2011: Two supervisors of a construction site were detained for questioning. Police found that employees used pointers “as a communication tool at the site. The laser beams are pointed at colleagues to call them over instead of using phones or walkie-talkies.” The lasers cost about Rs 500. A local planetarium and the Indian Institution of Technology were cleared, since officials told police they had not used lasers at night. From the Times of India

US: Chicago Police helicopter incident ends with 3 arrests

Three men in their twenties were arrested June 18 2011, after a Chicago Police helicopter flying over the city’s North Side was illuminated by a laser beam. The aircrew directed police on the ground to a rooftop. One man threw a green laser pointer to the ground; it was later recovered.

Arrested were Alvin Kang, 25; Jeremy A. Smith, 24; and Mark P. Lawrence, 25. Each man was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and aiming a laser pointer at an officer.

From
UPI, Chicago Sun-Times and Examiner.com

US: Ocean City NJ purchase used almost immediately against Coast Guard helicopter

At around 9 pm on June 7 2011, Eric J. Bouda purchased a green laser pointer for $30 from an Ocean City, New Jersey boardwalk store. He then pointed it at various targets -- including a Coast Guard helicopter two miles offshore that was on a training exercise with a tow boat. The boat crew notified local police, who found the 21-year-old still aiming the laser into the air. Bouda was arrested and charged with violating a state law prohibiting interference with transportation vehicles.

A spokesperson said that under Coast Guard rules, an illuminated aircraft must abort the mission. Crew members are taken off flight duty for at least one day, and must be examined by a doctor before flying again. “This temporary loss of crew has the potential to significantly affect the unit’s abilities to conduct search and rescue, training and homeland security missions.”

Due to previous incidents in Ocean City, the police and a local merchants association had asked members voluntarily to not sell laser pointers. But the president of the association noted that full compliance would not be possible unless there was an official ban or regulation.

From the Press of Atlantic City, Cape May County Herald, and Ocean City Patch.

UPDATE, June 21 2011: Bouda pleaded guilty in municipal court for interference with transportation. He was fined $1000 and must perform 15 days of community service. If he successfully completes the community service, the fine could be reduced to $500. In addition, he faces civil penalties from the FAA. (It is unclear from the news story whether or not FAA has actually begin proceedings against Bouda.) From Shore News Today.

Related LaserPointerSafety.com news stories about Ocean City and New Jersey laser troubles

US: Arrest in Sacramento laser incident

On June 7 2011, a Sacramento police helicopter was struck four times “each lasting several seconds”, forcing it to break off a search for a stolen car. The crew used an infrared camera to locate the person aiming at them. 43-year-old Don Watson was arrested in his backyard with a green laser. He was booked on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

Don Watson laser
Don Watson

Watson’s stepfather told Fox40 that Watson bought the laser the day before and was told “Don’t point it at anything in the sky.” The stepfather said of Watson, “He’s an alcoholic … he has no sense whatsoever when he’s drunk.”

A pilot on the helicopter said that a laser will “give you sudden headaches and temporary blindness. It’s very dangerous.”

From the
Sacramento Bee and Fox40.com

UK: Dover-area sea search called off due to laser pen attack

On June 6 2011, an RAF Sea King helicopter looking for a person in distress in the ocean was forced to call off the search due to being illuminated by a laser pen. Police are trying to find the laser perpetrator.


Site of the search: Copt Point between Folkestone and Dover.
Photo by
Chris Whippet, licensed under CC-by-SA 2.0.

Despite extensive searching by other means, rescuers did not locate the person who was reported to be in distress.

From
Kent Online. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

Russia: Two incidents in one week

Russian air transport regulator Rosaviatsiya noted an increase this year in cases of pilots being blinded by laser pens during landing at Russian airports, with 30 such incidents registered as of June 8 2011. Only five cases were registered in 2010.

On June 8, a pilot was blinded by a laser pointer while landing a Boeing passenger plane in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, but managed to land safely. The beam came from the area of a local market.

Earlier in the week a pilot of an Airbus A320 plane was blinded by a laser light during landing at the same airport

From RIA Novosti

UK: Helicopter hit twice in four days

A Northumbria Police helicopter in the Newcastle area was lased two times within four days. The most recent was June 6 2011, when 23-year-old Richard Anthony Oliver aimed a laser pen at the aircraft as it was flying over South Shields. Oliver was charged with directing a light at an aircraft to distract a pilot. [UPDATE July 26 2011: Oliver was given a 6 month sentence for the laser offence. Details are here.]

Earlier, on June 2, two 14-year-old boys lased the aircraft, which had been searching for criminal suspects near West Denton. The on-board observer said “... a green light filled the cockpit. For a few seconds I couldn’t see anything, all I could see was a green light. My sight was obliterated and I was dazzled.”

The pilot was forced to break off their search in order to find the laser perpetrators. They landed at a nearby airfield. The two teens were arrested and may charged with recklessly acting in a manner to endanger an aircraft.

From the Evening Chronicle

US: Pilot states he has been targeted six times

A South African scientist plans to strap a laser pointer-type device to the head of Olympic archer Karen Hultzer, to help make her shooting form consistent. Hulzer hired Johan Steryn of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to develop the device, which is not legal for competition but should improve muscle memory when used during training.

From the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

US: Judge withdraws from Florida case because felony charge is too harsh for "an idiot, not a criminal"

A federal judge refused to sentence an Orlando man who pleaded guilty on January 20 2011 to interfering with the operation of an aircraft. U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp said that Frank Newton Anderson was “an idiot, not a criminal” when he aimed a laser pointer at a sheriff’s helicopter on April 13 2010.

Sharp withdrew from the case because prosecutors would not reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. The judge felt that this was a more appropriate charge and would deter any future actions. Sharp also pointed out that a felony conviction would mean that Anderson could never work in his field. (He previously owned a security company which closed when he lost his license.) The case was reassigned to a new judge.

From
NewsChief.com (The Anderson news starts on page 2 of the 3-page article.)

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: Texas man arrested after aiming at FBI pilot

On June 2 2011, a Southwest Airlines pilot landing at Dallas’s Love Field reported a laser being aimed at the jet. Air traffic controllers warned other pilots. An FBI agent already airborne responded and began searching for the source. The man on the ground aimed his laser pointer at the FBI pilot, who then identified the location and notified ground units.

A 45-year-old Garland man, Sammy Ladymon, was arrested and charged with “illumination of aircraft with intense light”, a Texas state misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 1 year.


Sammy Ladymon


Ladymon’s house (A) is about 14 miles in a straight line from Love Field (B)

The arrest came one day after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would impose a civil penalty of up to $11,000 on persons lasing an aircraft. There was no immediate word as to whether Ladymon would face the FAA fine or other federal charges as well.

Click to read more...

Sweden: "Aviation sabotage" conviction for 21-year-old

A 21-year-old was convicted of “aviation sabotage” for repeatedly aiming a laser at a police helicopter in February 2010. According to a news report, the pilot was wearing “protective sunglasses” which helped avoid “what could have been a serious accident” as the helicopter flew over Gothenburg, Sweden.

The 21-year-old was convicted under the Radiation Protection Act. He received a suspended sentence with community service. A more severe sentence of 90 days was not imposed because the man had no previous criminal record.

From
The Local

US: UPDATED - 5 years probation for Florida man

Mark Clay Hazlitt, 59, of Lakeland Florida was sentenced on June 2 2011 to five years probation on federal charges of interfering with the operation of a Polk County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.


Five years probation

The judge ruled that Hazlitt’s laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon” under the circumstances of the case. This finding helped reduce the severity of Hazlitt’s sentence. He could have received up to 20 years in prison for the November 21 2010 green laser pointer illumination, which occurred because he was “tired of hearing” the helicopter.

According to The Ledger, Hazlitt said at the sentencing that “his actions last year [were] the result of ‘very bad judgment.’” He has started a website, laserawareness.us, in order to apologize and to publicize the hazards and potential penalties of laser pointer misuse.

LaserPointerSafety.com carried a story about the original Lakeland laser incident here.

From
NewsChief.com and The Ledger

US: FAA to impose civil penalties

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on June 1 2011 that they will impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 on any person who aims laser beams at aircraft.

Many more details about this new policy are at LaserPointerSafety.com’s main article, which is here.

US: Second laser assault in a week in Glendale CA

For the second time in less than a week a Glendale, California police helicopter was illuminated by laser light. In a May 27 incident, the aircrew was able to locate the South Glendale building where the beam came from. When they were illuminated again, they were able to pinpoint an apartment in the building.

31-year-old Erick Alberto Medina was arrested. He told officers that he did not point at the helicopter but instead had been using a telescope equipped with a laser pointer for sighting.

A police spokesperson said “It’s not a game. It’s not a joke. It’s an assault.”

Earlier, on May 22, a Glendale police helicopter was illuminated and officers made an arrest, as reported here.

From the
Glendale News-Press

UPDATE, July 8 2011: Medina was arraigned in court. A news report did not list the exact charge against him, but did say that “he faces a possible three-year prison term if convicted.” From the Los Angeles Daily News

UPDATE 2, July 12 2011: Medina pleaded not guilty to one felony count of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. The court date was set for July 20. From the Glendale News-Press

US: Man arrested for helicopter illumination in Burbank CA

A Glendale police helicopter was illuminated four times as it came in to land at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California. The crew tried to avoid the light as they searched for the perpetrator by using their thermal-imaging camera.

Rafael Torosyan, 30, was spotted in a park. Police followed him to an apartment building, where he was found hiding in a doorway. A laser pointer was found in his pocket and Torosyan was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

From the
Glendale News-Press

UPDATE MAY 31 2011: A Glendale police helicopter was lased again on May 27. Once again, officers were able to trace the source and arrest a suspect, as reported here.

Australia: Arrest for aiming at TV station helicopter

A 35-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser pointer at Channel 9’s helicopter on May 20 2011. He was charged with endangering the safe use of a vehicle by directing a beam of light from a laser. According to news reports, the pilot said he was temporarily blinded as he flew over Brisbane: “It’s like staring into the headlights of [a] car ... for a few minutes you lose your vision reference.”

From the Courier Mail and ABC News

UPDATE, June 29 2011: The man, Morgan Daniel Raine, was fined AUS $1000 (USD $1078) on the endangerment charge, plus $300 for possession of ecstasy which was found during a search of his apartment for the laser pointer. Raine said the lasing was stupid and he meant no harm. From the Courier Mail


Fined AUS $1000 for aiming a laser up to five times at a TV helicopter

UK: Teen charged in 30-minute attack

An unnamed 17-year-old aimed a laser pen at a police helicopter for 30 minutes. He was arrested and charged with shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle or distract the pilot.

The incident happened May 18 2011 in the skies over the West Midlands area near Birmingham; the boy is from Warley (Birmingham Mail) or Sandwell (BBC). According to police, the pilot “used his skills to position the aircraft away from the beams during the ground attack.”

From the
Birmingham Mail and the BBC

New Zealand: Three aircraft targeted over Hamilton

Police are asking the public’s help in finding the person(s) who pointed a green laser at aircraft in three separate incidents on May 13 2011. Pilots of a Cessna, an unidentified flight and an Air New Zealand flight all reported having green laser light aimed at their aircraft.

Police said that the penalty for endangering aircraft can be up to 14 years in prison.

From the
Waikato Times and Television New Zealand

US: 18 months in Philadelphia helicopter incident

A 22-year-old Philadelphia man will be spending the next year and a half in prison, for an incident where he aimed a green laser at a city police helicopter. The pilot was temporarily blinded, felt a sudden intense pain in his eye, and “lost control”; his co-pilot took over.

According to press reports, it is unclear if the man, Lenny Tavarez, knew that the laser could cause a crash. Tavarez was 19, and a recent high school graduate with no criminal record, when the October 2008 incident occurred. He was sentenced May 13 2011.

From
Philly.com. A report of the original 2008 incident is at ABC 6.

US: "Not the brightest guy" arrested in Fort Myers FL

A Fort Myers (Florida) man described by neighbors as “not the brightest guy” was arrested May 11 2011 for illuminating a Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter “several times” with a laser beam.

According to one news account, “the pilots’ night vision goggles went white and temporarily blinded them .... the deputies suffered irritation to their eyes.” According to another story, a deputy was hit in the eye with the laser beam. (It is not clear from the various news sources whether one or both deputies were wearing night vision goggles, and whether these were removed at some point during the event.)

Ground units were called to the location. A neighbor who saw the helicopter illuminating a house, and who saw multiple sheriff’s office cars speeding towards the house, looked outside and saw a green light: “I seen the laser flying around and we didn’t know what it was.” Officers found 29-year-old Michael Wayne Smith outside the house, “pointing an LED flashlight throughout the yard.” He was arrested and later charged with Public Order Crimes -- Pointing a Laser Light at a Pilot.


Michael Wayne Smith (Photo from Lee County Sheriff’s Office)

From WINK News, the Marco Eagle and ABC-7.com

New Zealand: 2 teens charged after illuminating police helicopter

19-year-old Joshua O’Hare-Knight and 17-year-old James Spiers were arrested on charges of endangering transport, after repeatedly shining a laser pointer at a police helicopter on May 7 2011. The two face up to 14 years in prison.

A police spokesperson did not want to comment about the incident because “he did not want to draw attention to it and risk copycat crimes.”

From the New Zealand Herald

UPDATE May 31 2011: Added the name of the second teenager, as reported by the Otago Daily Times

UPDATE 2 February 8 2012: The two persons appeared in court; a LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here
.

US: LA Sheriff's Department announces 4 arrests

From September 2010 through April 2011, lasers have been pointed at Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopters six times. In this period, the LACSD has made arrests for four police helicopter illuminations:
  • A 16-year-old boy from Los Alamitos, for an incident in late April 2011, in the Pico Rivera sheriff’s station area.
  • A 15-year-old boy from Pico Rivera, for an incident in December 2010, also in the Pico Rivera sheriff’s station area.
  • A 25-year-old man from Maywood, for an incident in December 2010.
  • A 25-year-old man from La Puente, for an incident in September 2010.
A helicopter pilot said that lasers have “caused long term damage to some pilots”. Officials also noted that incidents have forced pilots to land or to break off their operations in order to take evasive action.

From 660 WORL, the Los Angeles Times and WalnutPatch

US: Teen on Sacramento "Most Wanted" list for skipping probation

Sacramento police have put Jacob George Risch, 19, on their local “Most Wanted” list for failing to complete conditions of his probation for lasing a California Highway Patrol airplane.

Jacob Risch laser


Risch and a second youth were apprehended June 20, 2010 after aiming a green laser beam at the aircraft six times. The second youth was released; Risch was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft and possession of small amount of marijuana. Risch was 18 at the time of his arrest.

He pleaded no contest on September 13 2010 to a felony count of discharging a laser at an aircraft. He was sentenced to 60 days on the sheriff's work project and five years probation. On November 30, his probation was revoked for failure to complete the terms of his sentence. He was put on the Sacramento Police Department “Most Wanted” list on January 17 2011.

From the
Sacramento Bee (Risch is #9 in this “Most Wanted” slideshow), Sacramento Police Department. News of the original arrest from News10.net and Wopular.com.

UPDATE September 2 2011: Apparently, Risch has not yet been apprehended. LaserPointerSafety.com has not been able to find any indication of his removal from the Most Wanted list, or news items of any capture or arrest.

US: Jurors find spotlight misuser guilty on one charge, not guilty on another

Jurors deliberated for a day in a case where a man aimed a spotlight at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter on September 22 2010. The pilots, who were wearing night-vision goggles, were temporarily blinded by the spotlight. The co-pilot had to remove his goggles and direct the pilot, who was not able to remove his goggles while still piloting the aircraft.

On April 28 2011 the jury found Wayne P. Groen, 42, guilty of incapacitation of an individual during authorized operation of an aircraft. The jury found him not guilty of interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft. Sentencing was set for August 4 2011.

Groen lives near Lynden, Washington about 1/2 mile south of the U.S.-Canada border. According to the Seattle Times, Groen said he aimed the spotlight at the Border Protection helicopter because he was “curious” about their activities, bothered by the noise, and “wanted to alert the pilots as to how close they were to his home.”


Groen lives on H Street Road, which parallels the U.S.-Canada border

The Bellingham Herald reports that some of Groen’s neighbors have been annoyed by Border Protection activities, such as frequent low-level helicopter flights and vehicles traveling through their yards and fields. They “have been tempted” to spotlight helicopters, and felt that threat of a long prison term (up to 40 years) for Groen was excessive. One man quoted by the paper said he was in an old barn at night when a helicopter hovered overhead and the metal roof began to rattle and shake: “Had I had a good flashlight I would have shined it up at that black object to see what it was.”

From the Seattle Times and the Bellingham Herald. An account of the opening day of the trial, entitled “Light v. helicopter -- who felt threatened most?” can be read after registering at the Lynden Tribune; a cached version is available at Google.

UPDATE August 4 2011: Wayne Groen was sentenced to two months in prison, 90 days of home detention, 120 hours of community service, three years of community supervision, and a $5,000 fine for incapacitating an individual during the authorized operation of an aircraft. Groen could have received up to 20 years in prison. The prosecution recommended 10 months; the defense wanted no prison time, one year of probation, 120 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine. From The News Tribune

Australia: Airplane targeted on takeoff; man arrested

A 27-year old Sydney-area man was arrested April 19 2011. He was charged with using a prohibited weapon and committing an act to threaten the safety of an aircraft. (In NSW, laser pointers above a certain power are classed as “prohibited weapons” and may not be possessed or used without a permit.)

The arrest occurred one day after a commercial aircraft taking off from Sydney Airport reported being illuminated by laser light. Police had reports of green laser use in Bardwell Park, west of the airport, and tracked the use to the 27-year-old. His laser pointer was seized and tested, and found to be in the “prohibited weapon” category.

From the Herald Sun and a NSW Police Force press release

UPDATE, MAY 10 2011: Two men were arrested, 27-year-old Sergio Mitso Nagaoka and 21-year-old Lucas Fagundes Olhiara. They are Portuguese-speaking Brazilian citizens. Nagaoka was charged with using a prohibited weapon, and threatening the safety of an aircraft. Olhiara was charged with possessing a prohibited weapon without a permit. (Note: Some news reports transposed the 21-year-old’s name, writing it as “Lucas Olhiara Fagundes”. LaserPointerSafety.com does not know which version is correct.)

Update from the
St. George and Sutherland Shire Leader

US: 13-year-old charged in laser pointer incident

A 13-year-old was charged with reckless endangerment and “laser pointer misuse” after a Maryland State Police helicopter was tracked on April 17 2011, in eastern Baltimore County. Both pilots were temporarily blinded by the green beam. They were able to recover their night vision and train their spotlight on a home that the boy ran into. Ground units recovered a laser pointer from the home.

A police spokesperson called the event a “dangerous and irresponsible act... I urge parents whose children have laser pointers to remind them that engaging in this dangerous activity could lead to criminal charges.”

From the
Essex-Middle River Patch and Southern Maryland Online

UK: Eight months in prison for Maidstone man

A 21-year-old Maidstone man has been sentenced to eight months in prison for endangering the Kent and Essex Police helicopter while it was on a task in Maidstone last year.

On the evening of June 24 2010 the police helicopter was carrying out a search in the town centre when someone shining a laser pen in the direction of the aircraft distracted the pilot. The laser lit up the flight deck, dazzling the pilot and forcing him to remove a hand from the flight controls to shield his eyes. As he tried to maneuver the craft away from the light he was deliberately tracked.

The aircrew managed to direct local patrols to the origin of the light, where Jarome Tomlinson was arrested. He was later charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a way that was likely to endanger an aircraft, contrary to the Civil Aviation Act 1982. He was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on April 15 2011.

Acting Superintendent Nicola Faulconbridge of the Force Contact and Control Centre said: “This was a very dangerous thing to do and consequences could have been far more serious, but for the skills of the pilot. The crew were going about their daily job - protecting the public - when the light from the laser blinded the pilot. It is testament to his flying skills that he maintained control of the craft but it was an act that not only endangered the crew but also those below in Maidstone town centre.”

His Honour Judge Macdonald QC, passing sentence, said Tomlinson came from a good home with a good mother and had shown genuine remorse but that a suspended sentence wouldn't provide a deterrent to others.

Tomlinson will spend four months of his eight month sentence in prison.

From a Kent Police press release

UK: 21-year-old gets 6 month sentence for Northumbria lasing

Aiming a green laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter resulted in a 6-month jail sentence -- and a missed career in the RAF -- for Jonathan Quantrill, 21, of Plessey Gardens, North Shields. Quantrill repeatedly aimed a green laser at the helicopter on August 22 2010, after drinking two cans of beer. The pilot reported that his night vision was degraded. He was able to lead officers on the ground to Quantrill’s home, where the 21-year-old was found with the laser pen.

At sentencing, the judge noted that although Quantrill was “a perfectly decent young man ... showing off your newly purchased laser pen to friends”, it was important to set an example: “Others should know if they behave as you did they are likely to go to prison.”

From
Chronicle Live

Australia: Three aircraft targeted in Sydney

Three commercial flights were illuminated by lasers within a 90-minute period as they were landing at Sydney Airport on April 13 2011.

The first incident happened about 9 pm, the second was at 10:25 and the third came at 10:28. The pilot of the third airplane was illuminated directly in the eye; there was no reported injury.

News accounts noted that “high powered laser pointers are prohibited weapons and can’t be possessed without a permit.”

From
Sky News and the Sydney Morning Herald

US: Over two years in prison, $10,000 fine for lasering police helicopter

James Gautieri, 53, was sentenced on April 13 2011 to 33 months in prison plus a $10,000 fine for the April 30 2008 illumination of a police helicopter in Philadelphia. The charge was “interference with an aircraft.” The chopper pilot testified that he was temporarily blinded and the aircraft went into a nosedive. He said he would have crashed if his co-pilot had not taken over the controls.

The judge called Gautieri a “liar” for claiming that he was using the laser to follow stars.

Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey said “Let the sentencing today send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated.” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said “As a direct result of his reckless and irresponsible behavior, the defendant will now have several years to think about how he endangered public safety by shining a laser into a helicopter pilot's eyes.”

From
NBC Philadelphia, CBS Philly and an FBI press release

US: Phoenix man arrested; cousin told him too late it was illegal

A Phoenix, Arizona man was arrested April 8 2011 after illuminating a police helicopter with a green laser pointer. The pilot’s vision was obstructed for “two to three seconds” but no other adverse effect was reported.

The man, 26-year-old Corey Blake Hubley, was playing with his cousin’s laser pointer by aiming it into the sky. When he realized he had pointed it at a helicopter, he turned off the pointer, according to Hubley’s account. His cousin then told him that pointing at aircraft was illegal. When police arrived, Hubley admitted he had aimed at the helicopter.

Hubley was charged with endangerment, which is a felony.

From
ABC15.com

US: 30 days in jail for Midway laser illumination

24-year-old Elvin Slater pleaded guilty on April 1 2011 to the misdemeanor of unlawful use of a weapon -- a laser pointer aimed at aircraft. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 18 months of probation, and one month in a “sheriff’s work alternative program”

The charge stemmed from a March 17 incident when he and Shania Smith, 22, aimed a laser at a Southwest Airlines flight that was landing at Midway Airport, and then again at a police helicopter that was investigating the Southwest illumination. Both Slater and Smith were initially charged with two counts of discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and four counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Smith is awaiting trial on May 4.

From the
Chicago Sun-Times and WLS-AM

Germany: Man suspected in multiple laser incidents

A 43-year-old man was arrested March 30 2011 after a pilot was “blinded strongly” while landing at the Münster Osnabrück International Airport (“A” below) in South Saxony. A woman in Georgsmarienhütte (“B” below, about 30 km from the airport) reported the man had been using a laser pointer in a residential area. Police found the man with a 15 cm (6 in) laser.


A number of similar illuminations from Georgsmarienhütte had been previously reported. Police said they would investigate whether the man arrested was responsible for the other illuminations as well. The man would be charged with “dangerous interference with the aircraft”, which carries a sentence of six months to 10 years.

From NWZ Online and Bild.de (both in German)

Grenada: Increasing incidents

A number of pilots have reported lasers being aimed at their aircraft, reports the Grenada Airports Authority. The incidents occur when landing at Maurice Bishop International Airport.

Violators could be charged with interfering with air crew duties. The Authority is looking for the laser perpetrator(s), and has posted notices in newspapers stating that shining lights at aircraft is “a security offense”. Also, several pilots have filed complaints with the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority.

From the
Virgin Islands News Online

New Zealand: 17-year-old charged

The grandson of a prominent New Zealander was arrested after shining a green laser onto a police helicopter on March 25 2011. 17-year-old Joseph Mark James Corban was charged with reckless disregard for the safety of a police helicopter, which can be punished with up to 14 years in prison. The teenager’s grandfather is the late Joe Corban, MBE, a key figure in developing New Zealand winemaking.

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said “people didn’t realize what a hazard lasers can be to aircraft.”

From the New Zealand Herald

US: Army helicopter crew illuminated over Pa., perpetrator sought

Information is being sought in a laser strike that happened at 8:44 pm on Tuesday, March 22 2011. A crew member of an Army AH-64A Apache helicopter was illuminated “directly in the eyes” at an altitude of about 1500 feet while over the small borough of Myerstown, Pennsylvania (pop. 3,171). The beam came from near the intersection of Routes 622 and 645, according to state police.


The perpetrator could be charged with reckless endangerment. Anyone with information is asked to call the state police at 717-865-2194.

There was no word as to whether the crew member claimed an injury, or had a non-injurious light exposure.

From WHTM. Note that the online story stated Route “465” at the time we viewed it, but police confirmed this is a typo; the road is Route 645.

US: Three boys charged with felony near Nashville

Two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old were charged with felony endangerment after aiming a laser at a medical helicopter and three commercial aircraft near Nashville International Airport, late in the evening of March 17 2011. The location of the youths was identified via GPS. Although no one answered the door when police knocked, the father of one of the teenagers later called police, which led to the arrests.

The map shows the general area of the arrest:



From
WBIR

US: Florida man pleads guilty to helicopter illumination

Mark Clay Hazlett pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. He could receive up to 20 years in prison. The charge stems from a Nov. 21 2010 incident when Hazlett aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter. The crew was forced to break off their search in order to deal with the laser illuminations. (More on the original incident is here.)

Hazlett will be sentenced at a later date.

From
The Ledger

UPDATE, JUNE 2 2011: Hazlitt was sentenced to five years probation on the federal charge. He said the incident was “very bad judgment.” Update from The Ledger.

US: 2 arrested at Midway for plane & helicopter illumination

Two adults have been arrested after a laser was aimed at a commercial plane near Midway Airport in Chicago. A police helicopter sent to investigate was also illuminated. The incident happened at about 8:30 pm local time on Thursday, March 17 2011.

The arrest site is about 5 miles east of Midway Airport:



From the Chicago Tribune. Thanks to Joanna Skubish for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATE, MARCH 19 2011: The aircraft was a Southwest Airlines flight from San Francisco, with 137 passengers and a crew of five, that was landing at Midway. Police arrested Shania Smith, 21, and Elvin Slater, 23. Smith had just met Slater for the first time earlier that day. Smith said “I don’t know how it got in my car”, and that the first time she saw it was during the arrest, according to the Chicago Tribune. Slater’s uncle said He's a good kid. He just didn't know what he was doing.” Both Smith and Slater were charged with “discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and discharging a laser at an aircraft”, which are misdemeanors.


Google Street View of the intersection where the arrest took place,
looking west towards Midway Airport

From an updated Chicago Tribune article

UPDATE, APRIL 1 2011: Smith pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count and received a 30-day jail sentence, 18 months probation, and one month in a sheriff’s work program. More information is here.

US: Ohio man gets 2 days; says he did not understand laser's effect

25-year-old Timothy Lyman pleaded guilty to an October 20 2010 incident where he aimed a laser at a Columbus Ohio police helicopter, temporarily blinding the pilot and co-pilot.

When arrested, he admitted to his actions and handed the laser pointer to police. He had originally been charged with a felony (interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser), but on March 16 2011 he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, attempted interfering with operation of an aircraft. He told the court “I really do apologize for what happened. I didn't understand (that) what I did would have that effect."

Lyman was sentenced to the two days he served in jail after his arrest.

From the Columbus Dispatch

Australia: Laser illumination at Sydney Airport

An aircraft landing at Sydney Airport was lased about 9 pm March 13 2011. The green beam appeared to come from the Redfern or Surry Hills area.

New South Wales prohibits the possession of laser pointers without a permit, and classifies them as dangerous weapons.

From the
Sydney Morning Herald

Canada: UPDATED - 99 cent laser leads to weapons assault charge for Winnipeg man

A man who just bought a laser pointer for 99 cents on eBay, and who wanted to see how far it could go, was arrested for pointing it at a Winnipeg police helicopter on March 9 2011. Global News reported that he hit the female pilot “directly in the eyes” with the green beam.

Sheldon Friesen, 26, faces provincial charges of assault with a weapon, and possible federal charges with a maximum penalty of a CDN $100,000 fine and/or five years in prison.

When asked why he aimed at an aircraft, Friesen said “Just to see the distance. You point it up into the sky and see the beam go forever. I don’t know how far forever is, so I see something in the sky that’s worth reflecting, well why not? .... It was supposed to be for simple entertainment rather than having to cause someone danger like that.”

It took only about five minutes from the time he first aimed at the helicopter, to his arrest by three ground-based units.


Just before his arrest, Sheldon Friesen demonstrates to police officers his laser pointer (green glow at bottom center).

From the Winnipeg Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, and Global News/Global Winnipeg

UPDATE, May 1 2012: Friesen pleaded guilty to directing a bright light source at an aircraft. He was sentenced to 15 hours community service. The judge agreed that he did not realize the danger: “You do seem like you were genuinely surprised by the consequences of your actions.” From the Winnipeg Sun.

US: Fla. man accepts plea; did not think laser could reach aircraft

A 34-year-old Florida man pleaded guilty to one count of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, a third-degree felony. He avoided up to five years of prison and instead received one year probation, 140 hours of community service, and agreed not to possess a laser pointer.

Michael Anthony Fowler
One year probation, 140 hours of community service --- and cannot own a laser pointer

Michael Anthony Fowler of Silver Springs Shores was arrested Dec. 2 2010 after a “bluish laser light” illuminated a Marion County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Ocala.com quoted him as saying “I didn’t even think the laser pointer could reach that far.” Fowler told the news site that he was the second person in Florida history to be charged with that offense, after Frank Newton Anderson.

From Ocala.com and Gainesville.com

US: $5000 reward offered in Maryland airplane illumination

A $5000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) who aimed a laser into the cockpit of a Southwest Airlines flight approaching Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The flight, which originated in Milwaukee, was 2000 feet over the town of Millersville, near Old Mill Road and Kenora Drive, when it was illuminated around 6:45 pm on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011. Millersville is about 8 miles from BWI Airport.



According to the FBI, the eyes of both pilots were injured. The pilots “took their eyes off of the instruments during final approach, but the aircraft landed safely.”

The reward money is coming from both the FBI and Maryland Transportation Authority Police. Anyone with information is urged to contact the FBI at 410-265-8080 or the Maryland Transportation Authority Police at 410-859-7041.

From the
Baltimore Sun and HometownAnnapolis.com. Thanks to Dan Hewett, FDA/CDRH for bringing this to our attention.

US: Police search Phoenix neighborhood after multiple hits

A news helicopter, checking out a laser incident involving a traffic-reporting airplane, was itself illuminated multiple times.

The reporter in the helicopter was surprised a laser could be so intense: “I didn’t realize how bright it was,” Tammy Rose was quoted as saying. “From the ground, it doesn’t look like it shoots that far into the sky. … I was surprised at how much it actually lit up the screens. It’s very dangerous. People don’t understand the gravity of the situation.“

Police went door to door after the 6:30 am Friday Feb. 25 2011 illumination, in an attempt to find a suspect. As of Monday Feb. 28 no results had been reported.



The animation above shows frames from just before and just after a direct hit on the news helicopter. For the complete video, visit the link below. (Don’t click on the gray “Play” button in the center -- it is part of the screen capture, and is not a working button.)


From
3TV (azfamily.com)

Canada: 10-year-old tracks police helicopter

A 10-year-old illuminated a York Regional Police helicopter multiple times with a green laser pointer on Feb. 16 2011. The pilot broke off an active search and “immediately navigated the helicopter to safety” after noticing the green light. Police located the source and talked with the youth’s parents, who had been home during the incident. They were aware the boy had the pointer, but did not know the boy was tracking aircraft with it. Because the youth was under 12, he was not charged. The incident happened in Richmond Hill, Ontario (near Toronto).

York police said there have been four incidents so far in 2011, and more than 12 in 2010.

On Feb. 18 they put out a press release reminding parents that laser pointers are not a toy, and that charges can be brought for illuminating civilian and police aircraft. The charges include:
  • Projection of a bright light source at an aircraft;
  • Endangering the safety of an aircraft;
  • Obstructing police;
  • Mischief endangering life and;
  • Assaulting police.
From the Toronto Star, National Post and YorkRegion.com.

Canada: Man gets lower fine, in part because pilot did not lose control

In a case which may have Canadian implications for laser users’ defense, a judge reduced the fine for an Edmonton man charged with creating a hazard to aviation safety.

Provincial Judge Paul Sully said the August 19 2009 incident was "not as serious” as the prosecutor described, since the pilot did not lose control, but instead was "momentarily blinded from viewing his instruments [and] was able to complete his orbits.” In addition, the judge noted that the pilot was familiar with the dangers of laser light.

Judge Sully also rejected the prosecution’s notion that the man should have culpability: “The offender had a momentary loss of common sense which resulted from his failure to recognize the high standard of care needed when handling a laser.”Click to read more...

US: California woman arrested for illuminating two helicopters

Police announced that on Feb. 5, they arrested a Long Beach (California) woman for illuminating two helicopters on Jan. 29 2011, causing one to break off an aerial search for suspects who had shot at detectives. Officers on the ground located 34-year-old Kelly Ann Smith. They took her laser pointer and released her so they could continue searching for the shooting suspects. One week later, she was arrested, spent the night in jail, and was released the next day on $20,000 bail. She faces two felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Police said they hoped the arrest would send a message that this type of offense would be punished harshly.”

From the
Los Angeles Times and the Long Beach Post

Australia: UPDATED - 2008 "cluster attack" caused by boys on bicycles

In an incident in late March 2008, six planes had to alter their flight paths into Sydney’s airport after pilots reported a “coordinated cluster attack” of “up to four” laser beams. This incident has been cited numerous times as perhaps being a dry run or test for some more sinister laser usage.

However, it turns out that this incident was caused by boys on bicycles, apparently acting without pre-planning and not knowing how the lasers would affect pilot vision. During a Feb. 2011 briefing to the SAE G10T laser safety group , FAA flight standards liaison Patrick Hempen said that the truth about Sydney has not caught up with the news stories: “The attacks are usually spontaneous in nature, perpetrated by careless or malicious persons.”

Hempen said that investigation by US and Australian officials revealed that the Sydney "cluster attack" was caused by youths, riding their bicycles on a golf course at night, who stopped and took the occasion to illuminate landing aircraft. He noted that the youths’ local community had a history of acrimony directed at the airport authority due to the construction of a new runway which caused more flights over their residential area.

Hempen also investigated several laser events in the Mideast and found many of the so-called "deliberate attacks" to be similar; they were “events perpetrated by youths, in a party-like atmosphere, without care or knowledge of the havoc that they were causing.”

Based on a Feb. 1, 2011 presentation to SAE G10T.

US: 14-year-old arrested in LAX incident; did not think laser could reach aircraft

A 14-year-old boy was arrested Feb. 8 2011 for “shining a laser light into the eyes of a pilot” landing at Los Angeles International Airport. The illumination occurred when the plane was about 2,000 feet above the ground. The pilot was not injured, according to an FAA spokesman.

A police helicopter was sent to investigate. NBC Los Angeles reported that the boy also aimed at the police helicopter. He was arrested in his backyard, while holding the laser. According to the Daily Mail, the boy thought that “the light would not go up to the height of the aircraft.”

The map below shows the area of the arrest (“A” on the map) in relation to the airport which is about 8 miles to the southwest.



NBCLA’s news helicopter, which was covering the arrest, was targeted by a second laser for about three seconds. (It is unclear whether this beam actually hit the helicopter. The photo below shows the view from NBCLA’s helicopter.) The second beam came from an area about one block away. Police searched the area but so far, no arrest has been made.



From
CNN, NBCLA, and the Daily Mail. Note: The Huffington Post, citing CNN, reported that the 14-year-old was a girl, but other press reports said the suspect was a boy.

US: California man could face 4+ years in prison for helicopter illumination

A Shasta Lake, California man has been charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts, after a Dec. 6 2010 incident where a California Highway Patrol helicopter was illuminated multiple times with a green laser beam. Kevin Wayne Foster, 39, faces 4 years, 8 months in prison if convicted.


If convicted, Foster could be sentenced to over four years in prison

Click to read more...

Canada: Calgary "amateur astronomer" charged

A 39-year-old Calgary man was charged after a Jan. 5 2011 incident where a radio station traffic airplane, and a television helicopter, were illuminated by a green laser. Chris Sean Saulnier faces “one count of endangering the safety or security of an aircraft in flight..., two counts of projecting a light source into navigable airspace in such a manner to create a hazard to aviation safety, and two counts of mischief to property.”

Saulnier said he bought the $100 laser for his work as a contractor and as an amateur astronomer. He cooperated with police and was “remorseful and took full responsibility for his actions” according to a police spokesman.

From the
Calgary Herald

UK: Six month sentence suspended for Cheshire man

27-year-old Joseph Standish pleaded guilty on January 28 2011 to aiming a green laser at a Cheshire Police helicopter. A police observer on board was disoriented for a few seconds during the August 2010 incident. He was able to use thermal imaging equipment and a low-light lens to track the laser to Standish’s address in Winsford.

Before officers arrived, Standish dropped the laser into a drain. He denied the incident, but went to the Winsford Police Station the next day where he admitted aiming at the helicopter.

Standish was convicted of acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced to six months in prison which was suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 150 hours of community service. The laser pen was confiscated.

From the Police Oracle

US: Firing gun at helicopter: 10 years; using lasers: 3-20 years

In the past few years, a number of persons have been convicted of illuminating pilots of aircraft, often police helicopters. LaserPointerSafety.com has a partial list here. In the U.S., the average sentence seems to be about 3 years. Some persons may wonder how lasers are treated compared with guns.

In Orlando, two similar cases in the same jurisdiction provide one point of comparison.

Jason Dennis McGuire was convicted Jan 21 2011 of firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in March 2010. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Jason Dennis McGuire “faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison”. He will be sentenced in April 2011.

In a parallel case, the Sentinel notes that another Orlando man, Frank Newton Anderson, “faces up to 20 years in prison for interfering with the operation of an aircraft” by shining a laser at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in April 2010. Anderson pleaded guilty on January 20 2011 to one count of interfering with an aircraft, Anderson also will be sentenced in April 2011. This case was previously reported here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

From the Orlando Sentinel and a Tampa FBI press release

GUN UPDATE: On April 26 2011, Jason Dennis McGuire was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for firing a handgun at a sheriff’s helicopter, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The charges were “attempted destruction of an aircraft, possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony, and ... using a firearm during a violent crime.” A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice is here.

LASER UPDATE: In July 2011, Frank Newton Anderson was sentenced to one year probation and a $4000 fine for interfering with the operation of an aircraft, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In addition, it appears this is a felony conviction which will prevent Anderson from working in his field of security. At the time of his arrest, he owned Viking Protective Group of Winter Park, Florida.

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: NFL team Seattle Seahawks plane hit by laser

A chartered airplane carrying the Seattle Seahawks football team was illuminated with a laser while landing at Sea-Tac Airport on January 16 2011. The team was returning from a playoff loss to the Chicago Bears earlier that day.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was about 2 miles from the runway when it was hit. The incident was reported to local police.

As of January 19, no suspect has been identified.

From SB Nation and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

US: UPDATED - 3-year prison sentence for targeting police helicopter

A Massachusetts man was sentenced to three years in federal prison, for the December 8, 2007 illumination of a state police helicopter. The charges included “willfully interfering with an aircraft operator with reckless disregard for human life”, and making false statements to arresting officers.

52-year-old Gerard Sasso aimed a Class 3B green laser, said to be “at least five to ten times more powerful than an ordinary laser pointer” [approximately 25 to 50 milliwatts], at a helicopter that was escorting a liquified natural gas tanker through Boston Harbor. The pilots took evasive action, but the cockpit was hit and filled with “an intense sparkling green light”. The pilots and Coast Guard were able to trace the source to Sasso’s apartment in Medford. He “falsely and repeatedly” told police he was not the perpetrator. However, officers saw a laser pointer and he then admitted lasing the aircraft. Eleven lasers were seized from his apartment.

News reports quoted prosecutors as saying that Sasso was the second person in the U.S. to be convicted of lasing an aircraft. They also pointed to the November 2009 sentence of a California man who received 2.5 years for shining a laser at two airplanes and temporarily blinding a pilot. [This may refer to federal prison sentences, since others in the U.S. have received jail time for laser/aircraft incidents. The Nov. 2009 reference is to Dana Christian Welch.]

From
Island Crisis and the Boston Herald. Thanks to David Freihofer and Paul Berthot for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATE August 1 2012: Sasso’s case was appealed on grounds that the jury was given incorrect instructions at the January 2010 trial. The jury was told that it was sufficient for them to find that Sasso “willfully” aimed his laser at the helicopter. However Sasso’s public defender argued August 1 2012 in appeals court that Sasso had to willfully know that his actions would interfere with the aircraft operator. Thus, the jury should have been told to determine if Sasso knew the laser could interfere. An updated story is here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

US: UPDATED - Helicopter pilots injured in Florida laser incident

Two teenagers were arrested for shining green laser light at a Collier County (Florida) sheriff’s office helicopter at about 1 am on New Year’s Day. After landing, the two pilots “realized they both had ruptured blood vessels in their left eyes” and went to a hospital for treatment.

19-year old Hidalgo Moreno and 17-year-old Nicholas Ramos were arrested in North Naples and were charged with “pointing a laser light at a vehicle or aircraft operator causing injury” a Florida felony with up to a five-year prison sentence, according to the Naples Daily News. The teens told deputies “they didn’t realize it was not legal to point a laser at the helicopter and they were just playing with it.”Click to read more...