A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

Canada: Winnipeg teen aims at police helicopter, gets one year conditional discharge

Akshay Sharma was given a one year conditional discharge sentence, plus 30 hours of community service, on December 21 2015 for aiming a laser pointer at a Winnipeg city police helicopter in June 2015. The aircrew was temporarily distracted and disoriented.

Sharma’s lawyer said the teen “was goofing around to see how high [the laser] could project into the sky”, and did not intend to create a hazard.

From the
Winnipeg Sun

US: "Star Shower" home laser projector interferes with aircraft

A laser projector sold for home use to replace or augment Christmas lights has caused interference with at least six aircraft from November 18 to December 6 2015.

Star Shower laser projector head
The “Star Shower” laser projector, sold for $40 in stores including Wal-Mart, Target and CVS during the 2015 Christmas season. Details on the potential hazard are
here.

On December 3 2015, a commercial airplane at 13,000 feet altitude reported being illuminated by what was believed to be a “laser holiday light display.” The light was traced to a home 22 miles east of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. A pilot who was not involved told CBSDFW that likely the homeowner was asked to re-aim or remove the display, to prevent beams from going in the air. According to the news station, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said was the first case they had heard of, involving holiday laser lights.

However, NBC Los Angeles reported on an earlier incident. On November 18 2015, a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft sent a “distress call” to Sacramento police after being illuminated with laser light. A homeowner was advised to be more careful with the beam location. (It is not known why the FAA was not aware of this earlier incident.) Here is the NBC Los Angeles video:



On December 6 2015, three aircraft reported laser lights which were traced to a holiday display at at home three miles from Kansas City International airport. The homeowner told police he had “no idea he was endangering the public”

From CBSDFW, NBC Los Angeles, KSHB Kansas City. For much more information on the device and its potential hazards, see this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

UK: (Not a laser) Drone slices toddler's eye in half

Oscar Webb, a toddler around 17 months old, had his eye lacerated by the propeller from a neighbor’s drone. After numerous operations, his eye was not able to be saved by doctors. The boy will eventually be fitted with a prosthetic eye.

The accident happened in mid-October, in Stouerport, North Westchestershire. Simon Evans, next door neighbor to the family, had prior experience operating drones. Oscar was in his family’s front yard when after about 60 seconds of flight, Evans’ drone hit a tree, went out of control, and sliced through the toddler’s eye. The BBC quoted his mother, Amy Roberts, as saying “What I saw was what I thought was the bottom half of his eye, and it's the worst thing I've ever seen."

From the Telegraph and Ars Technica

Analysis and commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com


Although this severe accident did not involve lasers, there are some comparisons and contrasts with consumer laser pointer eye injuries. In almost all cases, a consumer laser injury does not cause complete loss of vision. It certainly does not result in exterior damage or destruction of the entire eyeball. On the other hand, drone injuries are rare, with only a few cases of persons being injured by falling drones. This is the only drone eye injury we are aware of, while there are a number of laser pointer eye injuries, some of which are in lists here and here.

US: Coast Guard training mission in Georgia aborted after seeing laser beams

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter aborted a training mission after noticing a green laser beam tracking the aircraft, on November 16 2015. There were no reported injuries, and it is unclear whether the beam of the laser entered the cockpit.

The incident took place in Richmond Hill, Georgia. The Coast Guard urged anyone with information to come forward.

From WTVM

UK: UPDATED - "Military-strength" laser injures retina of pilot landing at Heathrow

In spring 2015, a pilot in a British Airways plane landing at Heathrow Airport was illuminated by what was assumed to be a “military-strength” laser, according to the general secretary of the British Air Line Pilot’s Association (BALPA). The man was treated at a Sheffield hospital for a burned retina in one eye, and has not worked since the incident, said BALPA’s Jim McAuslan in a November 23 2015 statement.

McAuslan said the identity of the person, who was acting as co-pilot at the time of the incident and thus was not operating the aircraft, could not be revealed at present due to it being reviewed by an “employment tribunal.” British Airways said they are investigating the claimed injury.

McAuslan said that “kids’” lasers could not cause injury but that laser weapons could now be purchased illegally. [Lasers over 1 milliwatt in power are not legal for sale to the general public in Britain.] He said “We’re very concerned about it. When something as strong as this comes on the scene it starts to worry us.”

BALPA is also concerned over a survey of its pilot members, showing that 50% had reported a laser/aircraft incident during the period from November 2014 to November 2015.

According to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, there have been about 4-5 laser incidents reported each day on average, over the past four years. From January 1 to June 30 2015, there were more than 400 laser incidents reported to CAA.

From the Guardian, the Express, the Evening Standard, and the Belfast Telegraph

UPDATED - April 20 2016: Significant doubt has been cast on whether the eye damage was caused by a laser. In January 2016, a medical journal report was published by two ophthalmologists and a laser safety regulator. The report stated that there was no long-term negative effect on vision: “The pilot’s symptoms fully resolved 2 wk later.”

In February 2016 a very knowledgeable expert, who directly reviewed all evidence in the case, told LaserPointerSafety.com he “doesn’t believe it was laser-induced” and that the injury being caused by a laser was “not confirmed, despite what the journal paper says.”

This is confirmed by an April 2016 editorial written by three leading U.K. laser safety experts — including the laser safety regulator who co-authored the January 2016 medical journal report. The experts concluded the case is suspect for a number of reasons; they do not believe laser targeting caused the alleged injury. They wrote: “Only one case of alleged retinal damage to a pilot resulting from laser targeting of aircraft has been reported, although not in a peer review ophthalmic journal. This case is suspect because first and foremost, the metrology and exposure geometry would suggest insufficient energy could have entered the eye to produce irreversible damage and second the fundus anomaly is in the wrong location, the wrong shape and resulted in an extremely transient reported loss of VA [visual acuity] with full recovery.”

Analysis and commentary by LaserPointerSafety.com


If the pilot’s injury was caused by the laser exposure, this would have been the first documented case of a permanent laser eye injury to a civilian pilot. It would also have been the first case where a civilian pilot was unable to continue to be qualified to fly, due to laser exposure while in an aircraft.

There may be military cases of laser eye injury but if so, these would likely be classified and thus not be known to LaserPointerSafety.com. (There was a 1997 case of a military observer who had a claimed eye injury which was later found by laser injury experts to be not caused by his laser exposure.)


US: 3 news copters plus police chopper illuminated by laser light in NYC

Two news helicopters were illuminated with green laser light around 5:30 pm local time in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, as they hovered to cover a story about a stolen Greyhound bus. A NY Police Department helicopter called to the scene also had a green beam aimed at it.

[Note: The publicity from this led to widespread news stories that the 20 total incidents which happened that night was a large number. In fact, it was only slightly more than the current 2015 average of 18.3 reported incidents per night. More on this in a story in the News/Statistics section.]

One person tracked the aircraft and tweeted the resulting map (below). It shows aircraft converging on Atlantic Terminal Mall, an urban shopping center across Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center sports arena near the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill areas of Brooklyn.

NYC aircraft laser Nov 11 2015

WNBC Chopper 4 pilot Dennis Protsko helped police locate the source of the laser, a group of people in the rear of the “Energy Fuel” health food restaurant on Fulton Street.

laser nov 11 2015 nbc brooklyn
From WNBC Chopper 4




According to NBCNewYork, “the cook was found holding a frying pan with the laser inside it when police went to the restaurant. He told police pointing the laser was meant to be a joke, according to sources. “

Two people were taken into custody. The cook, 20-year-old Ossieo Silva of the Flatbush-Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, was arrested. He was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment; one is a felony and one is a misdemeanor.

The New York Daily News quoted court documents as saying that Silva told police he never pointed a light at helicopters before, and he “thought it would be funny.” Bail was set at $20,000.

Some stories — and the tweet above — said three news helicopters, from WABC, WCBS and WNBC were involved in Brooklyn. Other stories said there were two helicopters, from WCBS and WNBC. The confusion may be due to the fact that WABC’s NewsCopter 7 was involved in an earlier New Jersey lasing incident. (It may also be that the WABC aircraft flew from New Jersey to the Brooklyn scene and thus was involved in both incidents.)

About thirty minutes before the Brooklyn incident, a laser was pointed at a WABC news helicopter flying over Elizabeth, New Jersey, which is about 12 miles straight-line from the Atlantic Terminal Mall and is near Newark Liberty Airport. The crew contacted police and assisted them in locating the source. A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with interference with transportation and utilizing a laser toward an aircraft.

laser nov 11 2015 abc7ny elizabeth nj
Still frame, paused from WABC NewsCopter 7 video



From Fox News, NBCNewYork, DNAinfo, ABC7NY, Newsday, New York Daily News

US: UPDATED - Texas man pleads guilty to aiming a laser at a DPS helicopter

A 37-year-old Dallas man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on November 3 2015 to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

The incident occurred on May 30 2015. Orlando Jose Chapa was in his driveway when he aimed a laser beam at a Department of Public Safety helicopter. He was arrested on September 23 2015, after being indicted by a federal grand jury.

He remains free on bond; a sentencing date has not been set. He could receive up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.

Orlando Jose Chapa laser
Orlando Jose Chapa


From ABC13 and the Dallas Morning News

UPDATED February 18 2016 — Chapa was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison. From KCBD

US: One year in jail plus 3 years probation for Calif. teen who aimed laser at aircraft

Enrique Felix Gomez pleaded no contest September 14 2015 to aiming a high-powered green laser at an aircraft, and then at Los Angeles County fire and police helicopters on February 14 2015. Gomez, of Gardenia Calif., was sentenced November 2 2015 to one year in jail and three years probation.

From
MyNewsLA.com

US: Florida man aims "laser comb" at helicopter, is arrested

A Florida man aimed a Bosley LaserComb, used to stimulate hair growth, at a Marion County Sheriff’s helicopter on September 2 2015. The pilot was temporarily blinded. In addition, his night vision goggles were overwhelmed by the bright light.

The helicopter crew radioed ground officers, who arrested Mark A. Geohagan, 55, of Ocala. He told officers it was “not a laser” but a laser comb. Geohagan said he was testing the distance the light could reach, and that he meant no harm. Geohagan was charged a few hours later with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot.

Mark Allen Albert Geohagan laser
Mark A. Geohagan. His middle name was variously reported as “Allen” or “Albert”


The Bosley LaserComb Elite used by Geohagan has nine red 650nm laser diodes arranged in a line, that normally are directed towards a person’s scalp. When aimed into space, it produces a single, “extremely bright” spot of light as described in more detail after the “Read More…” link below.

From the Ocala StarBanner and Orlando Sentinel. Thanks to Chuck Maricle, Ph.D., for background information on hair comb products. For additional description and analysis of laser combs, click the “read more…” link.

Click to read more...

US: Two arrested for aiming laser at LA sheriff's helicopter

Two persons were arrested for aiming a laser at a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s helicopter at about 11:30 pm on August 11 2015.

The helicopter crew, who were on a training mission, were able to trace the beam to a home in Agoura Hills, California. Arrested were 31-year-old Christopher Cooper and 33-year-old Tanjelina Meredith. They were charged with suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft, a felony.

From CBS Los Angeles

UK: Man given 12-month conditional discharge for aiming laser pen at Humberside police helicopter

A 26-year-old man from Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire was sentenced August 3 2015 on charges of shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. The incident occurred March 27 2015, and involved a Humberside Police helicopter.

Scott Christopher Brown was given was given a 12-month conditional discharge, and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15 and costs of £85 by North Lincolnshire magistrates.

(For non-U.K. readers, “a conditional discharge is a sentence vitiating the finding of guilt in which the offender receives no punishment provided that, in a period set by the court [not more than three years], no further offence is committed.” In 2008, about 6% of sentences were conditional discharges.)

From the Scunthorpe Telegraph and the Wikipedia page on Discharge (sentence)

UK: London teen arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A south London teenager was arrested on July 27 2015 for aiming a laser pen at a Metropolitan Police helicopter. The aircraft was searching for a burglar when it was repeatedly hit. The crew identified the source, and the boy was arrested about an hour later. He was charged with endangering an aircraft.

From the London Evening Standard

US: Five more flights struck by lasers over NY and NJ; coordination by social media?

Five aircraft in the New York and New Jersey area reported being illuminated by lasers, from 9:25 pm local time July 21 2015 through 12:10 am July 22, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The incidents as a whole do not seem to be related. Two of the aircraft were struck near Warwick, New York, about 40 miles from Newark Liberty International Airport, two others were within 20 miles of Newark Liberty, and the fifth plane was about 20 miles southwest of LaGuardia Airport.

In addition, two airplanes approaching Boston Logan International Airport were illuminated by laser beams at 10:39 pm and 11:28 pm on July 22. One pilot said “The next thing I know, the entire cockpit goes green. It’s incredible scary losing your night vision when you are coming in to land. This is not at all funny, not at all, considering the incredible risk involved.”

The Boston Herald quoted a former pilot and crash investigator, Dale Leppard as saying “Last weekend [July 18-19] there were 38 incidents from San Diego to New York and several of them in New Jersey, including eight or nine within a few hours, which seems to me like it is a coordinated effort because they’re so spread out. I think it is a very serious issue and I’m wondering if it is being coordinated on social media. There’s just too many of them happening all at once over too wide of an area. The worst part is that it can blind you, literally. I don’t mean temporarily, I mean it can blind you for life.”

From the Benchmark Reporter and Boston Herald

US: UPDATED - Texas man arrested for aiming at eight airliners and a police helicopter

A 23-year-old man from rural Alvarado, Texas was arrested July 22 2015 on suspicion of aiming a laser at eight commercial aircraft as well as a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter and a Fort Worth police helicopter.

Beginning at about 10 pm local time on July 21, until about 1 am on July 22, eight aircraft flying near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reported seeing green laser light. These included flights from American Airlines, Envoy (formerly American Eagle), Southwest Airlines and FedEx. The aircraft were at altitudes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet when they reported seeing the laser light.

Air traffic controllers routed other aircraft around the area where the laser beams originated. A DPS helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser beam, which led deputies to a home in Alvarado, which is about 35 miles south-southwest of DFW.

The three persons in the home initially denied doing anything wrong. Once deputies said there was video from the helicopter, Austin Lawrence Siferd admitted pointing a laser at the aircraft, “not realizing it was actually strong enough to reach the aircraft,” said a law enforcement spokesperson.

The local NBC station quoted Siferd’s fiancée, Brenda Arnold, as saying she purchased the laser for him: “I think that he probably did think that they were just looking at the stars. I really don't think he meant anything intentional. I really don’t.”

Siferd was charged with illumination of an aircraft by an intense light, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $300. More severe federal charges are pending.

Austin Lawrence Siferd laser
Austin Lawrence Siferd


According to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson, no one was injured by the laser light. She also said there had been 59 reported laser incidents in North Texas from January 1 to July 22, 2015.

From the Associated Press via the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and NBCDFW.com

UPDATED October 14 2016: Siferd was sentenced to six months in federal prison. He had pleaded guilty to a felony indictment in March 2016. From CBSDFW and the Star-Telegram.

US: UPDATED - Bakersfield man indicted for lasing police helicopter and possessing seven bombs

A Bakersfield (Calif.) man was indicted July 16 2015 by a federal grand jury for aiming a green laser pointer at a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter. The device was key-activated and was labeled “Laser 301.” He faces up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

Pablo Cesar Sahagun, 26, was also charged with possessing seven “cricket bombs,” made by filling an empty CO2 cartridge with gunpowder or flash powder, and attaching a fuse. If convicted, Sahagun would face an additional ten years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of California press release dated July 21 2015

UPDATED - April 18 2016: Sahagun was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty on January 11 2016. From Bakersfield.com

US: UPDATED - Multiple aircraft hit by laser light around Newark Airport

Five commercial aircraft reported being illuminated by laser light on approach to Newark-Liberty International Airport. The incidents happened between about 9 and 11 pm on July 15 2015.

All planes involved landed safely, and there were no reports of injuries [but see Updated information below]. Flight controllers did have to change the approach path so subsequent aircraft could avoid the area.

In a statement, the FAA said there were a total of 11 aircraft in and around New Jersey that reported laser illuminations. [Note: Due to the distances involved, it is not possible that all 11 were struck by the same laser beam.]

  • Porter 141 was at 3,000 feet 15 miles southwest of Newark Liberty International Airport
  • American Airlines 1472 was 20 miles southwest of Newark Airport
  • United Airlines was at 9,000 feet seven miles from Newark Airport
  • American Airlines 966 was at 3,00 feet 15 miles south of Newark Airport
  • Delta Air Lines 504, Shuttle America 3489 and JetBlue 828 were at 3,000 feet four miles south of the Outerbridge Crossing [this is about 15 miles from Newark Airport]
  • JetBlue 2779 did not report its location
  • American Airlines 348 was at 9,000 feet over New Jersey heading to LaGuardia Airport
  • One aircraft reported it was illuminated when it was over Ocean City [about 100 miles from Newark Airport]
  • Republic Airlines 4632 reported it was at 9,000 feet seven miles northeast of Robbinsville [about 30 miles from Newark Airport]. The flight was heading to Pittsburgh, PA

In 2014, there were 28 laser incidents reported at Newark, 37 at LaGuardia and 17 at JFK Airport. As of mid-May 2015, there were 21 laser incidents at Newark, 36 at LaGuardia, and 5 at JFK.

From WWLP.com, CBS New York, My9NJ.com and WABC New York

UPDATED July 16 2015 6:51 PM EDT: ABC News stated that “the pilot of one plane reported having blurred vision, according to federal officials.”

Iran: U.S. ship and helicopter targeted by laser on Iranian merchant ship

A U.S. Navy destroyer and one of its helicopters, in international waters off the coast of Yemen, were targeted multiple times over four days by a laser on an Iranian merchant vessel. The laser harassment began July 5 and ended July 8 2015.

There were no reports of injuries or damage caused by the laser, so the Navy “believes it was not of industrial or military grade quality….” A Navy public affairs officer from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command called the Iranian use of the laser as “unsafe” and “unprofessional.”

From CNN and Stars and Stripes. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention. Note: The U.S. Navy in November 2014 deployed the first laser weapon sent into trials on an active duty warship, the USS Ponce. Six commercial welding lasers are merged into a single beam of 30 kilowatts, that can be used against targets including Iranian gunboats, according to SlashGear.

US: Police helicopter pretends to be airplane on approach; lures Phoenix man with laser

On July 1 2015, pilots landing at Phoenix Deer Valley Airport reported being targeted with a green laser. A Phoenix Police helicopter sent to investigate flew a pattern similar to aircraft on approach, and drew laser fire from Scott Allen Hines, 25.

Scott Hines laser
Scott Hines


Ground officers arrested Hines on four counts of endangerment: two for the police helicopter occupants, and two for the pilots of a fixed wing aircraft that was earlier hit by the laser.

The police pilots reported having headaches and seeing spots due to the laser exposure.

From the Foothills Focus

US: 2 Orlando men competed to see who could hit more aircraft with lasers

Two Orlando men, who had just bought new laser pointers, aimed them into the sky to test the beams’ distance. Bystanders told them to point at airplanes, so the men began a competition to see who could target more aircraft.

The contest took place on July 7 2015. One of the aircraft was a Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Ground officers arrested Rolando Espinoza, 22, and Shannan Winemiller, 21. Espinoza told deputies “he thought he heard that it’s illegal to point lasers at airplanes, but he wasn’t sure at the time.” Each man was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, a third degree felony in Florida.

From January 1 to July 7 2015, there were 47 laser/aircraft incidents reported to the FBI in Central and Southwest Florida. Sixteen of these were in the Orlando area.

Rolando Espinoza laser Shannan Winemiller laser
Rolando Espinoza, left, and Shannan Winemiller


From the Orlando Sentinel

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

A man was arrested July 5 2015 for aiming a green laser pointer at an Oklahoma City police helicopter. William Ernst, 23, was a passenger in a car at a drive-thru restaurant when he repeatedly targeted the aircraft. The pilot radioed to ground officers, who arrested Ernst on the laser charge, as well as for possession of fireworks and public drunkenness.

William Ernst laser
William Ernst

From KOCO.com and News9.com

US: Appeals court overturns 14-year sentence for Californian Sergio Rodriguez

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on June 24 2015 overturned the 14-year conviction of Sergio Rodriguez.

On August 25 2012, Rodriguez and his then-girlfriend repeatedly aimed a $8.00 green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter. On March 10 2014, Rodriguez was sentenced on two charges; one with a penalty of 5 years in prison and the other with a 14-year sentence. (According to an analysis by LaserPointerSafety.com, 8 of the 14 years were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.)

Rodriguez received 5 years in prison on a charge of aiming the laser at an aircraft (18 U.S.C. § 39A). This sentence was upheld by the Ninth Circuit. Judge Barry Silverman, writing for the panel, said that “the evidence showed that [Rodriguez] was attempting to see how far his laser would go at night - a stupid thing to do, yes, but there is no evidence that he was trying to interfere with the pilot.” Silverman added that this conviction “is designed for knuckleheads like him.”

But the 14-year sentence was overturned on the charge of willfully attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft in reckless disregard for human safety (18 U.S.C. § 32). Silverman wrote that this conviction "is designed for both the Osama bin Ladens of the world - people trying to bring down a plane, intending to cause harm - and those who are aware that their actions are dangerous and could harm others, but just don't care…. The failure to recognize this distinction is to fail to appreciate that Congress saw fit to create two different crimes, one more serious than the other, for two different types of offenders.”

The judges referenced an April 30 2015 decision in United States v. Gardenhire. In this case, judges said that even if a person knows that a laser is dangerous when pointed directly at someone’s eyes, they may not know the “bright light” danger miles away to a pilot operating at nighttime.

Silverman noted that to uphold a reckless endangerment charge, prosecutors would have to show that “similarly situated defendants, or even average people, understand how laser beams operate.” Just aiming at a helicopter "is not, in and of itself, sufficient to allow a rational factfinder to conclude that Rodriguez acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life.”

From Courthouse News Service and Ars Technica. The full decision of the court is reprinted below, click on the “Read More…” link.

UPDATED November 4 2016: Rodriguez appealed the June 2015 5-year sentence. On October 17 2016, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 5-year sentence. In an unpublished, unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel found the sentence was reasonable, even though advisory guidelines call for a sentence of only 21 to 27 months (1.75 to 2.25 years).

This was due to a number of factors: 1) “Rodriguez increased the dangerousness of the offense by striking the helicopter six or seven times,”, 2) minor children were involved, 3) he had a criminal history including gang involvement and 4) he was on probation when the laser illuminations occurred. From Ars Technica, Pasadena News Now and Courthouse News Service
Click to read more...

US: Four aircraft illuminated by lasers over Long Island NY; Sen. Schumer calls for laser ban

Four aircraft flying 4 miles northwest of Farmingdale, Long Island (New York state) were illuminated by green laser light on May 28 2015 between 9:30 and 10:00 pm. The source appeared to be in or near Bethpage State Park.

According to the FAA, the four flights, all taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport were American Airlines 185, Shuttle America 4213, and Delta Airlines 2292 and 2631. No injuries were reported.

New York Senator Charles Schumer repeated his previous support for the US government to ban “long-range” lasers. He said “We have to do something soon and not after a plane crashes.”

In an apparently unrelated incident at about 11:30 pm the same night, a Sun Country Airlines flight reported being illuminated with a green laser,

From CBS News and Newsday. Thanks to Kyle Strober for bringing the Newsday story to our attention.

US: California man charged in 2014 helicopter lasing

A 24-year-old man from Moreno Valley, California was charged May 18 2015 in federal court with aiming a green laser beam at a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department helicopter. Miguel Avalos will be arraigned June 24 2015. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The incident happened February 10 2014. The helicopter was helping to locate an Alzheimer’s patient. The green laser light caused the pilot “to become momentarily dazed by the intense light and caused him to lose the abiity to see outside the cockpit’s windows.”

From Inland News Today

US: Report of pilot landing in Las Vegas having eye injury from green laser beam

A crew member of a Frontier Airlines Airbus A319 reported that the pilot suffered an eye injury after being illuminated with a green laser beam. The incident occurred at about 2 am on May 18 2015, during approach about six miles from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, at an altitude of 3,800 feet.

The information about the crew member report came from an FAA spokesperson, Ian Gregor.

However, according to Frontier spokesperson Jim Faulkner speaking later, the pilot did not suffer an eye injury. After the plane landed, the pilot went to a hotel and did not seek medical care. Faulkner also said the incident did not affect any other flights.

From 8NewsNow.com, Fox5Vegas.com, and the Las Vegas Sun. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

Luxembourg: Laser beam aimed at Air Rescue helicopter

On May 5 2015, a laser beam was aimed at a Luxembourg Air Rescue helicopter flying near the German border. It is not known which country the beam originated from.

At about 10 pm local time, the crew noticed a laser beam aimed at their aircraft. They were able to avoid having the beam go directly into their eye, thanks to quick reaction due to training which LAR holds on a regular basis.

A compaint was filed with Luxembourg Airport police. The incident did not interrupt a mission as the helicopter was returning from a German hospital when the laser beam was spotted.

From the Luxemburger Wort
Click to read more...

US: Appeals court says 30-month sentence for aiming laser at aircraft is too long; defendent did not know of laser risk

A federal appeals court in California struck down a 30-month sentence given to Adam Gardenhire in March 2013 for aiming a laser pointer at an Cessna jet and police helicopter. Gardenhire was 18 at the time of the March 2012 laser strikes. The April 30 2015 decision by three judges of the Ninth Circuit found that prosecutors had not presented evidence of “reckless endangerment” of aircraft.

Adam Gardenhire laser
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com


The judges sent the case back to the U.S. district court in Los Angeles for a new sentencing hearing under a new judge. Under the original sentencing guidelines, Gardenhire had been recommended for 27 to 33 months in prison taking into account the reckless endangerment charge, or 4 to 10 months in prison without the charge.

The appeals court noted that, prior to the March 2013 laser incident, a friend of Gardenhire said that shining a laser beam into another person’s eye could lead to blindness. The appeals court then went on to say that information was different from “knowing that a laser beam can be distracting to pilots who are both enclosed in a cockpit and at least 2,640 feet away. Nor did the government submit any evidence of what even an average person would know about the effects of aiming a laser beam at an aircraft…. That one knows that the laser is dangerous when pointed directly in a person’s eyes does not mean that one knows about the beam’s ability to expand and refract, rendering it particularly hazardous for pilots in an aircraft miles away, or that the danger is heightened at nighttime because the pilot’s eyes have adjusted to the dark.”

The court specifically referred to the lack of any notice, label or other information regarding the risk of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft: “Gardenhire heeded the only warning he was given—not to shine the laser directly in anyone’s eyes—and he was not immediately alerted to any additional risks he was creating by aiming the beam at an aircraft.”

Click to read more...

UK: Two men charged with shining a laser at Humberside Police helicopter

Humberside Police announced April 10 2015 that two men had been charged with a February 11 2015 incident where a green laser light was aimed at a police helicopter flying over the Carnaby area of East Yorkshire. The helicopter team sent a tweet afterwards: “Whilst conducting search [we were] lasered. Speechless!”

Humberside police laser helicopter
Humberside Police helicopter photo of laser glare from February 11 2015 illumination


The men, aged 31 and 46, will appear at Beverley Magistrates Court on May 20 2015 on charges of endangering an aircraft, which has a penalty of up to two years in prison.

From BBC News and the Bridlington Free Press

US: Pilot has "burning sensation", visits doctor after being hit near Oakland

The pilot in a traffic-reporting aircraft had green laser light flashed in his eye, while over San Ramon, California at 6:40 am local time on April 2 2015. He felt a "minor burning sensation" from the "very, very strong" laser beam. After landing at Livermore Airport, the pilot had his eyes checked by a doctor. The pilot’s eyes appeared unharmed, but the doctor recommended that the pilot see a specialist.

ABC 7 News later reported that the pilot was “okay now”, and that the source is believed to be an industrial park in San Ramon.

The California Highway Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were notified. The FBI sent out an aircraft to try to find the laser source.

The pilot was flying for radio station KCBS in the San Francisco Bay area. San Ramon is about 20 miles west of Oakland. The KCBS traffic reporter in the plane, Ron Cervi, said he did not notice the laser until the pilot turned to him and said he had been struck by a laser beam “right in the eye.”

From KCBS and ABC 7 News

US: San Diego police let off 2 teens who aimed laser at Southwest flight and police helicopter

San Diego police did not charge two teenagers who pointed a green laser at a Southwest Airlines flight and a San Diego police helicopter at about 10:30 pm local time on April 1 2015.

After the Southwest pilot reported the laser illumination, the helicopter located the source and sent ground units to investigate. A 15-year-old boy visiting his friend was found with the laser.

Police “explained the danger and legal repercussions” of aiming a laser at an aircraft to the teens. Charges were not filed because neither youth had a criminal record, and the teens expressed “remorse” at their actions.

From Fox 5 San Diego

US: Medical helicopter pilot in Denver has "sore eyes" after laser illumination

The pilot of a medical helicopter flying in the Denver area was illuminated with a laser beam at about 8:30 pm local time on March 30 2015. The pilot made a “precautionary landing … was checked out and is off work for the next few days due to having sore eyes.”

The source of the laser is unknown.

From KUSA 9 News

US: UPDATED - Two Calif. men indicted for separate laser-pointing incidents on helicopters

On March 26 2015, a federal grand jury indicted two California men for aiming green laser beams at law enforcement helicopters. In both cases, the air crews involved experienced vision difficulties.

Case 1: Johnny Alexander Quenga, 28, of Fresno

On March 5 2015, the Fresno Police Department helicopter Air 1 was illuminated by green laser light about six times over ten minutes. One crew member, who had been illuminated by lasers numerous times in the past, suffered temporary flashblindness, afterimages, a headache lasting several hours requiring pain medication, and dizziness. He said the beam was much brighter than in his past experience. The pilot had a momentary loss of night vision, and flew a wide orbit to avoid the beam. The pilot directed ground officers to the location.

However, a patrol car on the way to the suspect’s home was broadsided at an intersection by a Toyota 4Runner. The Jaws of Life were needed to rescue one of the officers. Both officers in the car were treated at a hospital for serious injuries. The officer driving was knocked unconscious, had upper body and leg injuries, and some chipped teeth. The passenger officer had a broken leg and a fracture in his back that may require surgery. (The 4Runner driver and passenger suffered minor injuries.)

Pic 2015-04-11 at 12.49.13 PM
The Fresno Police Department car that was broadsided on the way to arrest a man who aimed a laser pointer at an FPD helicopter. Two officers were seriously injured. Photo from YourCentralValley.com.

When officers finally reached Quenga’s home, they found he was listening to police department radio traffic. He said “he could hear everything the officers were saying and knew they were looking for him and [he] had possibly hidden the laser.” Quenga claimed the laser beam came from a house behind him. He further said he worked as a security guard and knew he could lose his job for misuse of a laser.

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US: Air Force base employee, 57, repeatedly hits Tampa sheriff's helicopter with laser

A man who worked as a historian at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida, was arrested March 13 2015 for aiming a laser pointer at a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s helicopter. There had been reports of a pilot flying over Plant City, Florida who was flashed by a green laser beam. The sheriff’s helicopter was sent to investigate. The pilot reported “he’s hitting us repeatedly, and he’s not shy about it.” An infrared camera caught 57-year-old William Polson in the act:

William Polson laser 3


The suspect, realizing he had been spotted, took off in his car — with the laser. However, ground officers caught Polson at the entrance to his subdivision and took him to jail, where he was charged with misusing a laser device which is a felony, and for opposing a police officer during an arrest which is a misdemeanor.

William Polson laser 2
William Polson


According to the Tampa Tribune, in September 2013 Polson sent an email to the newspaper saying he had been harassed for several years by law enforcement helicopters and aircraft. He said the harassment occurred daily but “made no sense” because he is “no threat to anyone.”

From ABC Action News WFTS Tampa Bay and the Tampa Tribune

Ireland: Rescue helicopter targeted with a laser

A coast guard rescue helicopter looking for a missing man was targeted by a laser pen at about 1 am local time on March 14 2015, in Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore), County Donegal, Ireland. The Garda superintendent said ““I must question the thought process of any individual who would endanger rescue personnel answering a call for assistance.” Authorities asked for help in finding the unknown perpetrator.

From Highland Radio and the Irish Mirror

US: UPDATED - 3 pilots go for eye treatment after multiple LaGuardia laser illuminations

A pilot on an Air Canada commercial airliner, and two New York police officers on a helicopter, sustained eye injuries from a laser beam pointed at aircraft flying into and out of LaGuardia Airport on March 9 2015. According to police, the helicopter officers were treated and released in stable condition. The Air Canada pilot was taken to a hospital in Toronto for treatment.

On the evening of March 9, the Federal Aviation Administration notified the New York Police Department aviation department that someone was pointing laser beams at aircraft landing and taking off from LaGuardia Airport. A helicopter was dispatched to try and “draw fire.” Nothing happened for about 20 minutes, until the helicopter flew a path similar to an aircraft landing approach. On the second pass, a laser was aimed at the helicopter.

Both pilots were hit. Said one, “You feel a strong tingle in your eyes. You have a burnt spot where you can’t see. It is very dangerous for any pilot to be blinded.”

Ground officers went to the apartment of Frank Egan, 36. His mother invited the officers inside, where they found a device labeled “Laser 303.” According to police, Egan admitted using the laser pointer. He said it was purchased for $50 in an Orlando shop while on vacation.

He was charged with assault on a police officer, felony assault, menacing a police officer, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon.

The next day, March 10, Egan told reporters that he did not aim the beam and that he was sleeping at the time of the incident.


From NBC 4 New York, the New York Post and the New York Times

UPDATED March 14 2015: Frank Egan’s roommate and brother-in-law, Elehecer Balaguer, 54, claimed that he was the one using the laser pointer. According to the New York Times, Balaguer swore an oath in New York State Supreme Court on March 13 2015 that he, not Egan, was responsible: “Frank had nothing to do with it. I was the one that did it. It was just a kid thing. It was a stupid thing to do.” Balaguer first denied aiming at aircraft, then after being asked two more times, confessed “I pointed it at the plane, yes, thinking it was a …” and his voice trailed off. He then said “But I didn’t mean to hurt anybody.” According to Egan’s lawyer, Egan never told the police he used the laser, contrary to the police statement after Egan’s arrest. From the New York Times. A related article in the New York Times published March 12 2015 was entitled “Powerful Lasers Easy to Buy, Experts Say.” The New York Post called the laser “military-grade” and said it had been purchased while on vacation in Orlando.

Elehecer Balaguer laser
Elehecer Balaguer in court


UPDATED March 17 2015: Balaguer was charged on March 16 2015 in federal court with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. This has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. FAA officials said they had to redirect traffic in and out of LaGuardia on March 9 to avoid going over the Bronx, where Balaguer and Egan lived. Balaguer’s attorney said the suspect “uses methadone every day and takes medication for bipolar disorder”, and that he was “harmless”: “It was stupidity, not venality.” From the Wall Street Journal.

UPDATED May 5 2015: Balauger pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He could face up to five years in prison. The judge said sentencing guidelines call for between 2 and 2 1/2 years. He said sentencing of Balauger would not be routine “Given his psychiatric history, given his apparent lack of any wrongful intent, I can see one set of arguments being made; on the other hand I can see a different set of arguments because of the danger presented,” said the judge. Sentencing was scheduled for September 9 2015. According to the New York Post, Balauger is a disabled ex-heroin dealer who has a history of schizophrenia and left school after ninth grade. From CBS New York, the New York Post, and the New York Times.

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US: (Not a laser) Distraction from selfies and maybe camera flash likely cause of fatal crash, NTSB says

The National Transportation Safety Board reported on February 3 2015, that the May 31 2014 crash of a Cessna 150K which killed the pilot and a passenger, was due to taking “selfies” during the flight and becoming distracted. The Board concluded that the probable cause was “The pilot’s loss of control and subsequent aerodynamic stall due to spatial disorientation in night instrument meteorological conditions. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s distraction due to his cell phone use while maneuvering at low-altitude.”

Widely reported in the press was the fact that the cell phone camera’s flash function was used during an earlier portion of the flight. (The aircraft made one 6-minute flight around the traffic pattern, landed, took off again, made a left turn, stalled and spiraled into the ground.) As recorded by a second camera, a GoPro, during the 6-minute flight, the cameraphone flash was used “during the takeoff roll, initial climb, and flight in the traffic pattern.”

The NTSB did not state whether the use of the camera flash impeded the pilot’s vision. He was able to successfully complete the first, 6-minute flight despite being flashed multiple times. It was on the second takeoff that the pilot stalled, leading to the spin into terrain.
Click to read more...

US: Delta Connection flight hit by laser beam on approach to LaGuardia

A regional jet from Endeavor Air, flying as Delta Connection, was illuminated by a laser beam while on approach to New York’s LaGuardia Airport on January 23 2015. The crews was relieved of duty while being evaluated for any ill effects. The FAA is investigating.

From MyFOXNY

US: Three Delta flights illuminated by lasers at LAX

Three Delta Airlines flights were illuminated by laser light when near or landing at Los Angeles International Airport on January 4 2015. All three landed safely.

  • Flight 1211, a Boeing 767, reported a laser strike inbound at 2,500 feet while westbound seven miles east of LAX around 4:45 p.m.
  • At the exact same time Flight 34, also a Boeing 767, reported a laser strike outbound at 14,000 feet while northeast bound about 12 miles northeast of LAX.
  • Later in the evening, Flight 984, a Boeing 737, reported a laser strike inbound while heading west at 6,000 feet approximately 25 miles east of LAX around 10:30 p.m.

An FAA spokesperson said that from January 1 through December 19 2014, there were 101 laser strikes around Los Angeles.

From Ars Technica and NBC Los Angeles

US: Allegiant pilot goes to hospital after New Year's Day laser strike

On New Year’s Day 2014, the first officer for Allegiant Air Flight 558 from Los Angeles was illuminated by laser light as he landed at Rogue Valley (Oregon) International Airport. He went to a hospital for an eye evaluation. An airline spokesperson said the first officer was found to be “okay” and was “cleared to fly back to LAX after the incident.” He added that “Laser strikes have been uncommon incidences [sic] in our operations.”

The aircraft’s scheduled 8:30 departure for Los Angeles was delayed until the next morning.

A passenger on the plane said an announcement was made that the laser strike occurred as the plane was passing over the Siskiyou Pass just north of the California-Oregon border. Passengers were told it was an attempt “to cause laser blindness and potentially cause a crash.”

From KOBI5 News, Ashland Daily Tidings, and Ars Technica