A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Coast Guard helicopter on practice flight is lased; lands immediately to get medical checkup

From a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard on October 12 2017:

Coast Guard seeks tips, information on recent laser attacks on helicopters

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — The Coast Guard is asking the public for tips or information regarding recent laser attacks aimed against rescue helicopter crews.

The latest attack occurred Tuesday evening near the Arcata-Eureka airport as an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay was conducting a practice instrument approach.

The helicopter was southeast of the airport when a green laser coming from a wooded area about three miles east of McKinleyville, was shined directly at the aircraft. The pilots quickly landed so the crew members could receive medical checkups.

“Laser attacks against aircraft are a crime because of the danger they present to aviators and the public," said Capt. Greg Fuller, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay. “Our aircrews put their own lives on the line on a daily basis to save others in distress. These laser incidents significantly impact our ability to respond and we ask the public's help in identifying the sources.”

It is a federal crime, as well as a violation of California state law to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. Punishment under state law ranges from civil penalties of $1,000 up to $2,000 and three years imprisonment. Federal law allows for a punishment of imprisonment of up to five years.

Lasers, including common laser pointers, can cause glare, flash blindness, temporary loss of night vision and more permanent damage such as blind spots, cataracts and partial or total loss of visual acuity.

The Coast Guard encourages anyone who sees someone lasing any aircraft to call 911 to report the crime immediately.

Information about some California aviation laser incidents, including arrests and convictions of laser aircraft attackers, can be seen here:
http://laserpointersafety.com/news/news/aviation-incidents_files/tag-california.php

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

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.

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: 2 Coast Guard training missions cut short after laser tracks helicopters

Two Coast Guard training missions in Michigan were cut short after the pilot and crew were illuminated with green laser beams. One mission took place October 17 2014, the other mission three days later. The Coast Guard announced the incidents in a statement on November 5 2014.

The HH-65C Dolphin helicopters were based in Detroit. “During both incidents the lasers appeared to track the helicopters as they moved,” said the agency.

The Coast Guard has strict rules requiring helicopters to abandon their missions if illuminated with laser light. Anyone exposed is taken off flight duty for 24 hours, has their eyes dilated and must be cleared by a doctor before flying again.

From Ars Technica and the Lansing State Journal

US: Coast Guard helicopter in California targeted by laser

From a U.S. Coast Guard press release:


A Coast Guard helicopter flying over Arcata [California] was targeted by an individual with a laser Friday evening [September 19 2014].

The MH-65D Dolphin crew was returning from an operation in southern California when the incident occurred. The laser shined directly in the eyes of both pilots and appeared to come from Janes Road at Upper Bay Road in Arcata.

Lieutenant Josh Smith was one of the pilots. "We were at approximately 1500 feet returning to the base when a green laser shined from left to right across the cockpit, shining in both our eyes (the pilots). We tried not to look at the laser, but flying on the instruments while looking away from it (the laser) is very difficult." Coast Guard pilots often fly solely by looking at the cockpit instruments without outside visual cues, but are trained to look away from a laser targeting the aircraft to protect their eyesight. Even if not directly hit by a laser, being forced to look away from the instruments can result in the pilot literally flying blind.
Click to read more...

US: Drifting diver rescued by aiming laser at searching helicopters

A deep sea diver whose safety line broke and who was drifting out to sea, was rescued November 1 2013 when he aimed a green laser at a helicopter that was searching for him.

When Ron Tubbs failed to surface from his dive off Kaena Point, Oahu, his dive partner contacted the Honolulu Fire Department. A helicopter was sent to search; first from the Fire Department and later a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

As the skies grew dark, Tubbs saw one or both helicopters but they were searching too close to shore. He pulled out a green laser pointer and aimed in the direction of the aircraft. (News stories are not clear as to which helicopter, or perhaps both, Tubbs aimed at.)

Tubbs later said, “When it got dark I think they finally realized they saw the beam of the laser way off in the distance and [I] took care not shine it in their eyes or anything, but in their direction and it reflects off the moisture in the air, so it makes a pretty big beam.”

Ron Tubbs laser submitted
Ron Tubbs, diver rescued by aiming laser at helicopter to get its attention

Ron Tubbs laser rescue 02
Tubbs demonstrates the laser


The laser worked to get the aircrews’ attention. Tubbs was rescued by the Coast Guard helicopter after about four hours in the water, and was taken to a decompression chamber.

Coast Guard Lt. Chris McAndrew said “With how dark it was last night, it would have been impossible to see him unless we were right on top of him, knew exactly where he was. The way were able to find him so quickly was because he had some kind of signaling device.”

From Hawaii News Now, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and the Huffington Post

UPDATED February 11 2014: Ron Tubbs wrote to LaserPointerSafety.com, to give advice for anyone who might use a laser to attract rescuers:

“The green laser saved my life. The failure of my other safety gear put me in a very serious position. My physical condition was failing quickly. I was vomiting when they picked me up from over four miles from the search area. Any delay due to the use of my laser to get help was very serious.

“My life was depending on the Coast Guard and Fire Department rescuers. To hurt those who are saving other people's lives with a by shining a laser at them is very serious and could have cost me my life.

“The Coast Guard pilot who saved my life reported to me that the green laser and/or any LED light is not seen with their night vision goggles. Three of the four crew were wearing those goggles.

“I will never scuba dive without my green laser again and have it as a safety device. Even so because night vision goggles do not see LED light I would suggest a nice expensive strobe and very bright flashlight (not LED) too or flares as the main signal device in addition to the laser. Also the Fire Department helicopter would not go near a laser as they have only have one pilot and a glass helicopter floor.

“To shine a laser towards a helicopter could actually cause the rescue to be delayed. Also shining the laser right into their eyes could blind the ones you need to rescue you so be very careful if you do use one to get help. Do not put those trying to rescue you at risk too. Shining in their direction and
not at them will work well enough.

“Thanks to those who saved my life. Please all do not put them at risk further by shining a laser at them! “

US: Coast Guard helicopter near Honolulu struck by laser during search

A Coast Guard helicopter on a search mission was illuminated by a laser on November 23 2013, while off the coast of Waimanalo Bay near Honolulu. The green beam swept the aircraft and one crew member was directly struck. The crew was able to continue the mission.

The perpetrator was not located.

This was the fifth lasing thus far in 2013 for aircraft stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.

From KITV

US: Oregon man, 46, arrested for lasing Coast Guard boat and helicopter

A 46-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser from his car, towards a Coast Guard motor lifeboat and helicopter that were conducting training exercises in Depoe Bay, Oregon on October 16 2013. The Coast Guard crew who were exposed were prevented from returning to duty until after being medically examined.

Henry Luther Cole Jr. was found parked near a seawall. He was charged with violating a restraining order, menacing, and disorderly conduct. Bail was set at $40,000. The case was referred to the Coast Guard Investigative Service, which is looking into possible federal charges.

Depoe Bay is on the Oregon coast, about 80 miles southwest of Portland. It promotes its six-acre harbor as the “world’s smallest”, according to its Wikipedia entry.

From the Statesman Journal and a news release from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office

US: Coast Guard crew member goes to hospital after laser hits executive jet

A crew member on a Coast Guard executive jet went to a hospital emergency room after being exposed to laser light. The Falcon jet had been on a search and rescue mission. It was landing at Corpus Christi International Airport on November 5 2012 when a laser beam “filled the cockpit with a blinding light.” The source of the laser was unknown.

The crew member was treated for temporary vision impairment and will make a full recovery.

According to the Coast Guard, this was the third laser incident since June 2012 for aircrews at Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi. A Navy air station nearby has reported two other incidents.

From KTRK-TV 13 Houston, CNN and Caller.com

US: Laser causes Coast Guard in SC to break off search; 3rd time in 3 weeks

For the third time in three weeks, a South Carolina Coast Guard mission was broken off due to lasers being aimed at a helicopter. As a result, a 60 mile stretch of beach, the “Grand Strand”, is now identified as “very high risk” to Coast Guard aircrews. The area includes Myrtle Beach, which has had continuing problems with laser harassment and misuse.

On August 8 2012, three orange flares were spotted near Garden City Beach, S.C. A helicopter from Air Facility Charleston, S.C. arrived in the area when it was illuminated by a laser. Under Coast Guard rules, the helicopter broke off its mission and the aircrew underwent medical inspection. One crew member had direct laser exposure and was not cleared to fly again for roughly 12 hours.

A boat was sent to continue the search, but did not arrive at the scene until about two hours after the helicopter had left. At dawn, a second helicopter was sent out. Neither the boat nor the helicopter found anything unusual.

The commanding officer of the Coast Guard’s Air Station Savannah said “… every time we send our aircrews to the Grand Strand, we're telling them to fly into the equivalent of a storm, where it's almost guaranteed they'll be hit. We're simply asking the public to stop putting Coast Guard men and women in senseless and unnecessary danger."

From CarolinaLive. See a related story about the first two Coast Guard laser incidents, in July 2012, in the same area.

US: UPDATED - Coast Guard makes "emergency landing" after S.C.laser illumination

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, searching for a missing boater near Charleston S.C., made an emergency landing after a laser was aimed into the cockpit from shore on July 16 2012. According to Carolina Live, the Coast Guard requires an eye exam for each person on board after any laser incident. They must then be cleared by a flight surgeon before they can return to flight duty.

The story did not say whether the helicopter crew broke off their mission, or whether they completed the search before the landing. It also does not give a definition or details of the emergency; for example, whether merely having the laser in the cockpit required an emergency landing under Coast Guard procedures, or whether the crew experienced any vision or operational difficulties.

There have been six laser incidents with Savannah air station-based Coast Guard helicopters in the last year and a half, with four of these occurring during searches.

From CarolinaLive.com. In addition to this story, see additional stories at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach.

UPDATE July 28 2012: A story at Myrtle Beach Online describes the ordeal of the missing boaters, and how lasers twice forced Coast Guard helicopters to break off the search. It also has additional details about Coast Guard procedures once a laser is seen.

US: Jacksonville-area teens arrested for lasing Coast Guard helicopter

Two Jacksonville, Fl. area teenagers were arrested March 22 for illuminating the cabin of a Coast Guard helicopter. The Dauphin MH65D aircraft was operating near the suburb of Orange Park when it was lit up several times by a green laser. The pilots were able to determine the location of the laser, and report it to the Orange Park Sheriff’s Office. They arrested 18-year-old Devon Christopher Joyner and 16-year-old Kalib Taylor Hodge. Both were charged with misuse of a laser light on an aircraft.

According to deputies, a witness had told the teens to stop lasing, because they were breaking the law. It is unknown whether this was told to them before or after they illuminated the helicopter.

From Clay Today

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

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.

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