A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
One pilot said “We want this to stop before we have to dig one of our aircraft out of the beach…. Incidents like this are happening more and more frequently, three different occasions recently, and that’s just our pilots – there are many more flying clubs and school at Blackpool Airport.”
An incident on September 22 2017 happened to a pilot flying prior to a fireworks competition. A laser came from the crowd, deliberately tracking the aircraft. He said “The whole cockpit lit up, it was a real shock.”
Three frames from the Sept. 22 incident show the laser, barely visible in the first photo, lighting up the cockpit window in the second photo and nearly obscuring all ground lights in the third photo.
Blackpool Airport is in Lancashire, in northwest England. There do not appear to be any suspects or arrests in the recent incidents.
From The Gazette
The building is located under a major flightpath, about 3.5 miles from Southampton Airport. On the map below, Albion Towers is towards the bottom; the airport is at the top.
According to the Southern Daily Echo, shocked tenants and community leaders have condemned the trespassing youths as ‘putting lives at risk’…”
Housing authorities sent letters to some residents stating that the teens’ actions were “extremely dangerous” and the long range laser pointer could have caused a “major incident” if aimed at aircraft.
The letter noted that the youths appeared “undeterred” and had “considered their actions humorous.”
The news report did not indicate that any lasing activity, or any aiming of the laser towards aircraft, had actually occurred.
From the Southern Daily Echo
During the March 9 2016 incident, intermittent flashes from the laser caused the pilot to take evasive action. The search for a missing person was called off, and instead the crew tracked the laser beam to two men in a park in the Newfoundpool area of Leicester. When ground officers apprehended the men, each man said the other had been using the laser.
Martin Gary Jayes, 46, had 71 criminal convictions on his record and was drunk when arrested for the laser offense. He was sentenced to eight months in jail for recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.
His neighbor Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail.
The judge said the men’s actions had “grave risks” and was “life-threatening.”
Jayes’ lawyer said “This offense was committed in drink by someone who knew better. He’s badly let himself down.”
Plaskiewicz’s lawyer said “He knows he’s acted in a very stupid way. There was no intention to bring down a helicopter. If it wasn’t so serious it might have been a childhood prank.”
From the Leicester Mercury. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
From BBC News
The instructor was not injured. There was no information available whether there was anyone else in the aircraft at the time.
The incident is being classified as “endangering an aircraft," and police are investigating.
From the Daily Mail
Virgin’s website stated that “Following this incident the first officer reported feeling unwell. The decision was taken by both pilots to return to Heathrow rather than continue the transatlantic crossing."
The airline said passengers would stay overnight and would then be able to fly to JFK Airport “as soon as possible”.
Police were attempting to find the laser source, said to be 6-7 miles from the airport. An article in the Daily Mail included a map showing the aircraft’s takeoff pattern, and the area where the laser beam was thought to have originated.
From the Telegraph, Daily Mail, BBC News and ITV. Audio recording from AirportWebcams.net.
UPDATED February 15 2016: The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) called for “the Government to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them.” From a statement on BALPA’s website, reprinted here.
UPDATED February 17 2017: A forum post claiming to be from the Virgin Atlantic pilot gave details about the incident. The person posted under the handle “scroggs”. He wrote: “I am the Captain in this event…. It was a red beam, not a green one. It was indeed reported as and when it happened. The pictures we got show its ground position (which wasn’t Legoland as far as I can see), and will hopefully help those in the know to estimate its power and provenance.”
Scroggs continued: “As was reported in the news, the FO did receive retinal damage from what appeared to be a 'lucky' passing sweep, but it's not permanent and will heal fully. There was no visual impairment during the flight, but there was no way of knowing (for me) that that would continue to be the case. The symptoms were slow in making themselves apparent. That's about all I'm prepared to say for now.” From post #173 in a thread on PPRuNE.org about the incident.
Background commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com
After around 40,000 laser incidents reported to U.S. FAA and U.K. CAA from 2004 through 2015*, as of February 14 2016 this is the first occurrence we are aware of where a commercial aircraft has turned around and not completed its flight, due to a laser incident from the ground.
- There have been a few instances where a flight has changed course, such as pilot doing a “go around” on landing because of laser light on the first attempt.
- Some police and rescue operations have had their missions disrupted by a laser; this has been common for the U.S. Coast Guard which has operational rules requiring a mission to abort if there is laser illumination.
- In 2013, there was an incident where an aircraft made an emergency diversion 224 miles short of its destination, because a passenger onboard was using a homemade laser to burn several small holes in fabric near his seat. This is the only other emergency diversion we are aware of due to laser misuse.
As of February 14 2016, there is no confirmed, documented case of permanent eye injury to a civilian pilot (commercial, general aviation, or police/rescue) due to exposure in the cockpit to laser light from the ground.
In a fall 2014 case, first publicly reported about a year later, a British Airways pilot illuminated by a laser on landing at Heathrow was treated at a Sheffield hospital for spots on his retina. The case was reported in a medical journal in January 2016 which said the area had healed within two weeks. An expert close to the case, who directly examined the journal paper and the evidence, told LaserPointerSafety.com in February that he does not believe the retinal injury was laser-induced, and that it was “not confirmed” as a laser injury “despite what the journal paper says.”
*29,097 laser incidents reported to U.S. FAA, Jan 1 2004 through Dec 31 2015; plus “more than 8,998 laser incidents” reported to U.K. CAA “between 2009 and June 2015.”
The 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.
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.)
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)
From the London Evening Standard
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
The incident happened August 4 2014.
From the Salisbury Journal
On July 19 2014, helicopter “India 99” was trying to locate 10 people walking across rooftops. Arkadiusz Wozniewski of the London suburb of New Malden aimed a laser pen at the aircraft. This caused the search to be called off.
Wozniewski pleaded guilty in Wimbledon Magistrates Court on October 8 2014.
From the Surrey Comet
UK: Police copter abandons search for missing North Yorkshire woman, due to 6-year-old aiming laser pen
The officers spoke to the child’s parents, telling them that shining light in pilots’ eyes is dangerous. The boy was said to have had no malicious intent.
The missing woman was later located “safe and well,” according to police quoted in an October 2 2014 news story.
In the ten weeks prior to September 26 2014, there were seven incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft; five of these led to arrests.
News reports did not directly link the misuse to the man arrested with the 107 laser pens. It also is not known if the investigation that led to the seizure was started in response to the aircraft incidents, or was separately initiated. All flights landed safely.
One of the seized pens was said to be 650 times more powerful than normal. Given that U.K. regulations prohibit laser pointers above 1 mW, the pen was likely 650 milliwatts. This is Class 4, the most hazardous laser classification, as the beam can cause eye and even skin burns.
From the Daily Echo
In August, Hunt pleaded guilty to acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, and to possession of cannabis. He was given a community order for 12 months, a supervision order, was fined £20, was ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge, and he had his laser pen and cannabis forfeited.
From the Bolton News
Lee Gary Greenway
During his arrest, he apologized for his actions and called them “really stupid”, according to the judge at Greenway’s August 25 2014 hearing. Greenway pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft. He was released on bail pending sentencing on September 8.
From the Wakefield Express
UK: 16 and 12 week sentences for two Birmingham-area men in "persistent and determined" laser pen attack
Claudio Bruno, 48, of Bloxwich and Carl Keates, 23, of Walsall pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft. Bruno -- said to be responsible for 90 percent of the attack -- was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail. Keates was sentenced to 12 weeks.
The two had been drinking when they began to aim a laser at the police helicopter as it was tracking a stolen car. The “repeated and prolonged” attack lasted about 25 minutes, 10 of which was filmed by the helicopter. Video footage showed that both men were fully aware of what they were doing.
Bruno told arresting police that it was a joke, but then said his actions had put the helicopter in danger. He had purchased the laser about six months before to point out constellations in the night sky. Keates said he did not know if the laser would reach the helicopter.
At trial, the defender said that Bruno, in particular, was terrified at the prospect of the court case: "His family say he has not been able to eat or sleep and has wept constantly. He is extremely remorseful, not for his position but for what he did. It was stupid, foolish and reckless."
During sentencing, the judge said "This type of case is one of the most difficult that a judge has to deal with because I have before me two men of good character but each charged with a very serious offence. I accept you are both very remorseful. You had both been drinking and no doubt thought it would be a jokey thing to do but it was not and it could have had catastrophic consequences."
From the Walsall Advertiser and the Express & Star
From The Star
On January 28 2014, the tactical officer onboard a police helicopter saw a laser and was able to warn the pilot, who avoided the direct beam. The laser was aimed twice more towards the aircraft. The tactical officer reported the incident as it occurred on the main flight path to Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield.
Ground officers were sent to the source of the laser light, where they found Leanne Martin and a “powerful” laser pen she had purchased on eBay. During trial, she said she had been using the laser pen to excite her dog, when she heard the helicopter. Although her boyfriend warned her not to aim at the aircraft, she opened a window and pointed the laser at the helicopter. When she realized it was a police helicopter, she stopped.
Her lawyer said “Miss Martin is full of remorse. She knows it was stupid. She did not realise how powerful the laser was and had not seen the warning sticker which says to ‘avoid eye contact.’ As soon as she realised it was a police helicopter she stopped because she knew she should not do it. She cannot believe how daft she was. This was a complete one off. She has no previous convictions. When police asked her if she understood how serious it was, she said ‘I do now.’”
The judge said it was careless and reckless behavior that could have been catastrophic.
Martin was sentenced to 12 months of community order (probation/supervision) and 120 hours unpaid work, £85 in court costs, and a £60 victim surcharge.
From the Worksop Guardian
The pilot located the beam at the Brookstone Estate in Peel Green. Ground officers found a 13-year-old with a laser. They confiscated the laser and spoke to the youth. No charges were immediately filed, but an investigation is ongoing.
The pilot did not need or seek medical attention.
According to the chief inspector, there were five incidents “in the past couple of months.”
From the Manchester Evening News
According to a trauma doctor on board, “Fortunately for us, the pilot is highly experienced and dealt with it. But, had the laser caught anyone’s eye albeit briefly, it can lead to blindness for at least ten minutes and a loss of spatial awareness. Had we not taken action and avoided being been dazzled, it would have prevented us landing until the visual effects had settled, delaying treatment of the casualty. It has the same effect as deliberately slowing down an ambulance en-route to hospital. If we can find whoever is responsible, we will seek to have them prosecuted.”
From the Stratford Observer and BBC News England
From the London Evening Standard
The laser’s light, as seen from the NPAS helicopter
The NPAS chief superintendent said “Shining a laser pen at an aircraft not only puts the pilot and the crew in danger, but it can delay the helicopter which may result in serious injury or even the loss of life. These are stupid and reckless acts. We will deal robustly with anyone who uses lasers and puts lives at risk.... Such offences hold a potential five-year custodial sentence and/or a significant fine.... Real people’s lives are at risk. This is not some kind of computer game.”
From the Ormskirk & Skelmersdale Advertiser
Stephen Slark of Southwick was charged with shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. He will appear in court on April 1 2014.
In addition, a 27-year-old companion was arrested but later released without charge.
From The Argus
On March 15 2014, a helicopter flying at 6000 feet reported being targeted by a laser. The beam came from the London Road area, but the laser was not found.
On March 18 2014, an Airbus reported being flashed by a laser, as the aircraft was heading into Gatwick airport.
Police warned local residents that aiming a laser at an aircraft is a "considerable threat" as well as being illegal.
From Crowboroughlife.com and the Kent and Sussex Courier. Thanks to Stephan Butler for bringing this to our attention.
On January 20 2014, a National Police Air Service helicopter was at 1500 feet altitude, searching for a missing person. Gavin Hoskins was "playing" with the laser, aiming it first at rooftops and then aiming 3-4 times at the helicopter. He did not think the laser had the range to reach the aircraft, which broke off the search to track Hoskins.
According to the prosecutor, “it does not appear that the pilot on this occasion was distracted.”
When arrested, Hoskins told police that the was sorry and had been "stupid" to use the laser pen, which was still in his pocket.
The laser had been purchased in Bulgaria for his young daughter, Haskins said to police.
At trial, Hoskins admitted recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. His lawyer said “it was not a deliberate act to endanger the pilot of the helicopter.”
The judge called Hoskin's actions "stupid and potentially extremely dangerous" and noted that a number of recent helicopter crashes have resulted in "destruction and death."
Hoskins, a security guard, lost his job -- apparently due to negative publicity surrounding the case.
From BBC News and the Western Daily Press.
On January 26 2014, Craig Mather of Carlton (an eastern suburb of Nottingham) heard the helicopter and aimed a £20 laser pen at it. The pilot was distracted as he was attending a serious incident in Arnold, to the northwest of Carlton. Ground units were notified and went to Mather’s home.
Prosecutors said Mather told authorities that “the helicopter annoyed him, as it was always above his house, and wanted it to go away. He said he didn't know how far the laser went.”
In court, Mather admitted to the charge of directing or shining a light at a police helicopter, so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. The crime is punishable by a fine. He was also ordered to pay £85 in costs and a £30 victim surcharge.
From the Nottingham Post
On May 20 2013, the helicopter was sent to investigate a shooting. As it hovered over Luton, a green laser beam dazzled the crew of three, leading to evasive action by the pilot. Officers on the ground traced the beam to 53-year-old James McIvor, a PCSO with British Transport Police. (A PCSO is a civilian member of police staff who is a uniformed non-warranted officer.)
James McIvor, PCSO, British Transport Police
McIvor told officers he had been using a laser pen to attract his elderly cat that was on top of his garage.
McIvor was convicted in December 2013 of acting in a negligent manner to endanger the safety of an aircraft. He was acquitted of a more serious charge of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.
From BBC News and Wikipedia’s PCSO page
The incident occurred in Blacon, an area in Chester (20 miles south of Liverpool) on August 11 2012. The helicopter was able to trace the laser beam back to a person in a garden, later identified as Richard James Brooks.
Sentencing of Brooks was scheduled for February 12.
On September 25 2013, the helicopter was called to find a missing person. The pilot was hovering at 1,200 feet over a densely populated area of Greenfield when a green laser beam targeted the aircraft. Over an eight-minute period, the aircraft was hit about ten times by the beam. The majority hit the outside of the helicopter though a video recording showed the interior illuminated for a couple of seconds.
A frame from the helicopter video of the attack. The complete video can be seen here.
While the helicopter maneuvered to avoid the laser, the missing-person search was not abandoned. No emergency or evasive action was taken, and the captain was in full control throughout the incident. However, the attack distracted the crew, caused distress and wasted search time and resources, according to the prosecutor.
The three-man crew identified the source location and directed ground officers to the home of Kevin Mark Griffiths. He pretended to be asleep and later produced the laser from a bedroom. He told police he had purchased the laser while on vacation in Spain.
Griffiths said it was a “foolish, impulsive and reckless action,” aiming at what he knew was a police helicopter.
At trial Griffiths admitted a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft or persons inside. He was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, and was fined £165 in costs.
From the Daily Post (with video) and Wales Online
He is out on bail until January 17 2014.
From Kent Online
From Wigan Today
The unnamed pilot was on approach to Newcastle International Airport. He told the Eastern Chronicle:
The weather was atrocious, with strong turbulence and crosswinds outside of the legal limits for my first officer. The aircraft was being battered by the gales and the landing conditions at the airport at the very margins required total concentration from the flight crews, and in particular, myself as the captain landing the aircraft with a large number of passengers inbound from the Mediterranean.”
He was then hit in the left eye, with a “searing pain”. He turned towards the light, looking at the source.
“My left eye was left sore and blurred but, mercifully, weather conditions eased and the landing was uneventful. On this occasion it was just a major distraction on a very difficult night when all my efforts should have been on getting the aircraft safely down.
“Had the attack happened minutes later, both eyes would have been affected and my co-pilot would have had to face the prospect of landing outside his limits, or diverting. The miscreant must have been very aware of the conditions and its only aim was to bring down the aircraft and its occupants.”
From the ChronicleLive and the Telegraph
The crew was able to use video equipment to trace the source of the laser, to a home in St. Paul’s Cray. The man was arrested and admitted using the laser.
He was given a police caution for endangering the safety of an aircraft.
From The Guardian
The helicopter crew was on a training exercise so it was able to turn around and identify the laser’s location. Ground officers arrested the unnamed man. He was charged with endangering an aircraft.
From the Bath Chronicle and This Is Wiltshire
Mohammed Arif Riaz pleaded guilty to aiming at the aircraft. In June 2013 he was sentenced to eight months in prison, in Birmingham Crown Court.
The Bar Standards Board, acting on November 13 2013, also found Riaz had failed to declare criminal convictions that occurred in 2004. The Board said he acted with “astonishing recklessness” and “conduct discreditable to a barrister.”
From the Express and Star
Ireland: Belfast man's laser could have caused "catastrophic and fatal" helicopter crash at 2011 MTV European Music Awards, judge rules
The helicopter had been patrolling the crowd outside Odyssey Arena when Aaron McCrory aimed his laser pen at the aircraft. According to the prosecutor, McCrory had targeted the helicopter on several occasions. When questioned, McCrory first blamed children for aiming the laser, then admitted he had done it but handed over a different laser from the one used to hit the aircraft.
McCrory’s defense lawyer said the act was not done deliberately or out of animosity, but he was “messing about and that was reckless.”
At sentencing on October 7 2013, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said McCrory was “foolish and unthinking…. If the pilot had been blinded, even momentarily, the result for all onboard could have been catastrophic and fatal, and given where the aircraft was, the consequences for those on the ground, you must appreciate, could have been unimaginable in its severity.”
Performers inside the Odyssey Arena included Coldplay, LMFAO, Bruno Mars, Jessie J, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Snow Patrol, Justin Bieber, David Guetta, Adam Lambert, and Queen.
Brace told police he wanted to see how far the laser pen could reach, and that he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. In sentencing Brace, the judge said: "I regret that the offense you are charged with can only be punished with a fine, many people will feel that is inadequate."
Click to read more...
From BBC News Tyne and Wear
UK: Couple found in bed, having aimed laser beam at search helicopter, then hiding laser pen under a mattress
On August 27 2013, they both pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot. Additionally, Gilbert pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. There is no prison term available for the offenses, only fines. They were fined a total of £305 (USD $473): a fine of £100 each, court costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of £20.
Click to read more...
A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said this was the first incident he had heard of in “a long time” in the area.
From the Maidenhead Advertiser
A Norfolk police spokeswoman said “He has received a caution for recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or a person in an aircraft.”
From the Norwich Evening News 24
According to the Civil Aviation Authority, there have been over 220 laser incidents in the West Midlands "in the last two years", as of July 3 2013.
Arrest report from the Birmingham Mail and West Midlands Police; CAA statistics from an earlier Birmingham Mail article
During the April 10 2013 court hearing, Waistle was said to be “very scared about what could happen to him”. Recorder Graham Cook said “You are right to be scared, you could easily be going behind that door” meaning jail. Instead, Waistle received a six-month suspended sentence plus 150 hours of unpaid work.
Leaving the courtroom, Waistle put two fingers up (photo above) which the Daily Star’s headline called “defiant”.
From the Daily Star
Police are seeking information about the incident.
From the Trader & Guardian
The November 12 2012 warning noted that “Shining a laser at a force helicopter or other aircraft has the potential to bring that aircraft down…. [I]t could lead to someone being seriously injured or worse.”
From the Evening Times
Ian Collins pleaded guilty to “shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot”. He paid a £400 fine plus £200 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
From the Express & Star
Police said the action could have caused the helicopter to crash.
Two other cases that happened at about the same time are still in court.
From The Star (and a more detailed, earlier version from The Star)
From This Is Lancashire
Nicholls’ attorney said he did not mean to intentionally endanger the aircraft. He pleaded guilty to one count of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or people in an aircraft.
Six month sentence for Alexander Nicholls
The six month sentence was intended as a “deterrent” because “the result could well have been catastrophic,” according to the chair of the bench.
Statistics show that from January through mid-July 2012, there were 31 reported laser incidents in Avon and Somerset, compared with 26 for the same period last year.
From the Weston Mercury
At a hearing on June 11 2012, Tetich was fined £465 and his laser pen was ordered to be destroyed.
On August 9 2011, a three-person crew was patrolling over Crawley, West Sussex. The pilot testified that the crew was dazzled three times by “the sort of light that could only have been a laser. I have been subjected to a number of laser attacks.” Camera footage shown in court displayed only a small flash. Vadher’s attorney said that the flash could not be traced to any particular house. He said that even if the light had come from Vadher’s house, there was no evidence that any shining was intentional. Vadher said there was a light coming from his laptop, which was next to his open bedroom window.
After hearing both sides, the judge agreed there was no evidence of the crime, or that Vadher was the person who committed any crime.
Vader told the Crawley News that his life had been on hold since his arrest on a charge of directing a light at an aircraft in flight to dazzle or distract the pilot.
From This Is Sussex. The original arrest story from September 7 2011 is here.
From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus
Pilot Paul Maddox told Bristol Magistrates’ Court that the light lasted about 15 seconds. An observer crew member said “the shafts of light were moving around the cockpit, restricting me from my task.” They were able to locate Bowering on the ground, where he was arrested. He told officers he had borrowed the laser pen and did not realize the beam would reach to the helicopter. According to his lawyer, Bowering was aware that lasing aircraft was illegal.
From This Is Bristol
Update April 10 2012: Bowering avoided jail “by a whisker” according to the judge, who sentenced him to a 12-month community order. He must attend a Thinking and Skills course, has a 90-day curfew between 9 pm and 6:30 am, and has to repay £200 in court costs. The judge said Bowering had been using the laser to play with his dogs, when he aimed it into the air. The initial illumination of the helicopter was an accident, but then it was repeated, the judge found. The pilot told the court that he had “temporary black spots” in his vision which almost caused him to stray into Bristol Airport’s airspace, which could have caused the diversion of a commercial flight that was on approach. From the Guardian
From This is Bristol
The arrest led to renewed calls for laser regulations in the U.K. (see related LaserPointerSafety.com news story).
From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus
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
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
Late in the evening of September 7 2011, 21-year-olds Alex Cox and Luke Fortune aimed a green laser at an air ambulance trying to land in Calne. The men disagreed about whether the laser could reach the helicopter. Cox thought it would; Fortune thought it would not. In court testimony, the men also disagreed about which one of them aimed at the helicopter.
The pilot tried three times to land but could not due to the laser interference. An ambulance was called to pick up the patient, a man in his 70’s suffering a heart attack. It took 25 minutes to reach the Great Western Hospital in Swindon by road; it would have been 10 minutes by air. According to the ambulance service, it was “unlikely” that the helicopter would have been able to reach the hospital in time to save the man.
Cox and Fortune pleaded guilty to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. They told the court their actions were stupid and very dangerous, and that they were sorry.
A Daily Mail article about the case has a sidebar listing four “laser pen pests” who received sentences from four to eight months, in cases ranging over the April-November 2011 timeframe.
From the Daily Mail. The original LaserPointerSafety.com news item about the incident, from September 2011, is here.
Ricky Kemp of Shirebrook caused a “minor irritation” to the pilot, the first time Kemp lased the helicopter. The pilot continued to an incident, but then was lased again by Kemp while returning to police headquarters. The pilot was able to identify Kemp’s location, and directed ground units who made an arrest.
Kemp pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering an aircraft and the people inside.
From This is Derbyshire
The prosecutor said if tried as adults, the two could have served a 1-year sentence. In addition to the 12-month referral, the youths were told to write an apology letter to the pilot, were fined £85 in court costs, and had their laser pen destroyed.
From Bedfordshire On Sunday
The Chief Superintendent of Avon and Somerset Police said “Anyone who shines a laser at an aircraft performs a dangerous and reckless act. These people have no consideration for the safety of the aircraft or its crew. When a laser is directed at any aircraft it puts life at risk and in the case of the police helicopter hinder the apprehension of offenders and delay the investigation of crime. In 2010 there were 90 reported laser hits against aircraft and last year more than 100 incidents involving aircraft and vehicles. This is something we take seriously…. Those who use the pens … need to know that they face arrest and possible prosecution if they are caught.”
From the Avon and Somerset Police Constabulary and BBC News Bristol
UPDATE, March 19 2012: Charges against the three teenagers were dropped, due to lack of sufficient evidence.
On September 27 2011, a police helicopter was searching for suspects when a laser pen was aimed at it for about 10 minutes. The pilot was flashblinded and suspended the search while he recovered. The pilot was able to identify a suspect. Dean Riley, of Cator Cresent, New Addington in the London Borough of Croydon was arrested by ground officers. He initially said he was not involved. The top of the laser pen was found in his pocket.
Four months for aiming a laser at a helicopter
During sentencing, Riley’s lawyer described him as “extremely remorseful and regretful” and said Riley wanted to apologize. The judge said the pilot “could have crashed and caused untold damage and injury. The court takes offenses of this nature extremely seriously.”
From the Croydon Guardian
From BBC News
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
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
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
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
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
From the Worthing Herald
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
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
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
From BBC News
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
The teen was arrested on suspicion of endangering aircraft. He was released on bail until October 27.
From the Maidenhead Advertiser and BBC News
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
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.
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.
From BBC News
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
From This Is The West Country
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Click to read more...
Frame from video showing a direct hit on the camera
The youths are standing under a streetlight, next to a car as they continue to aim at the helicopter
The infrared camera gets a close-up view as the youth on the right aims his laser
After realizing he may be in trouble, one of the youths starts running
The camera pulls back and is able to track him. He was later captured and fined £100 in youth court.
Click to play the YouTube video
Four month sentence for Radu Moldovan
His lawyer said that Moldovan “wanted to see how powerful” the £4 green laser pen was. The laser beam was aimed at or near the aircraft multiple times. The local sheriff said “The consequences of a Tornado crashing at RAF Leuchars raises the most horrific possibilities of death and injury to the pilot, navigator and anyone passing underneath.”
From BBC News
22-year-old Shane Ramsay and 20-year-old Darryl Hodgkinson said they bought the green pointer for £20 and aimed it at the police helicopter “for a laugh”. Their attorney said the two men “had no idea what they did could potentially endanger the pilot’s eyesight.” A local police sergeant was quoted as saying “This his kind of stupidity is increasing in the aviation world. It is reckless and foolhardy and those who do so will be arrested and brought before the courts.”
From SWNS.com News Service
Ben Philip Vout targeted a KLM flight coming in to land with 40 passengers at Durham Tees Valley Airport in northeast England, in August 2008. He also shone the device at a police helicopter sent to investigate.
Vout, 19, and from Heslop Street in Thornaby had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
Teesside Crown Court was told that the KLM flight had to be landed by the co-pilot.
From BBC News
Hosseiny, originally from Afghanistan, was in the UK after seeking asylum in 2002. As a result of his laser assault and subsequent convictions, he was served with a deportation notice.
In the March 2009 incident, the airplane pilot said he had a "momentary loss of concentration" due to a "dazzling green light" as the plane was landing at Cardiff (Wales) airport. The trial judge stated that "The consequences of such an action could have been catastrophic. Fortunately there was no catastrophe and the aircraft landed safety."
More details from BBC News.
The pilot was quoted as saying "Dennis has learned how dangerous this type of incident can be, and I hope that others will understand the same lesson."
Full story, with photo of the meeting, from BBC News
Merriott said the gunships sounded like an "earthquake" and were "10 feet above my garden" in his farmhouse near Eye, Suffolk. News reports said he used the flashlight to identify the aircraft, during the September 18 2009 incident.
The flashlight was readily available and cost £8.45 (US $13.86). Merriott owns a theatrical lighting firm that has lit flying helicopters at a Buckingham Palace event. He insists he did not put the aircraft at risk: "Don't tell the Taliban that all they need is an eight-quid torch to bring down multi-million-pound high-tech gunships."
Full story, with photo of Merriott and a torch, from the Daily Mail.
UPDATE: Charges were dropped two days after the incident. Merriott said he was considering making an official complaint:
"I cannot help feeling that to keep me locked up for nine hours is pretty vindictive, when I was happy to make a statement. It was heavy handed and I think they were trying to teach me a lesson."
Update from EDP24
The pilots felt that it was only their night-vision goggles, which reduced the glare, that saved them from a “tragic crash”. Romanov was found guilty of culpable and reckless conduct and was fined the record amount.
From the Daily Record. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.
UPDATE: In late August 2009, Romanov’s lawyers appealed, saying “the fine was maybe suitable for the offense, but not enough consideration has been given to his financial circumstances.” A hearing was scheduled for September 10. From the Press and Journal.
From the Mirror.
A police spokesperson was quoted as saying “Shining a laser at an aircraft is extremely dangerous. The front windscreen has thousands of tiny scratches on its surface, which diffract the laser beam in every direction. Essentially, the laser beam lights up the whole of the windscreen in a bright glow, which can potentially blind the pilot."
From BBC News
A police inspector was quoted as saying “The sentence handed out sends a clear warning to anyone else considering such reckless behaviour. Endangering an aircraft is a criminal offence and it will not be tolerated.”
From the Richmond-Twickenham Times and The Independent.
Click to play the full YouTube video:
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com
Some might say that the laser in this incident looked “manageable”. But there are a number of issues:
- The person might have bad aim. With care or a tripod, this could have been much worse.
- The laser might be relatively low-powered, such as 5 mW or less. If a higher-power laser was used, obviously the light would be much brighter.
- We are seeing what a camera sees. The human eye could be more bothered by the laser hits.
- The pilots are obviously distracted, in two major ways. The light itself is distracting, plus they are concentrating on this incident (trying to find the perpetrator). They are taking time away from “normal” police work to have to deal with this situation.
- If the police had been able to find the perpetrator, he or she would have been arrested. This would quickly turn a “prank” into a serious, expensive matter for the person. (Search this page for the categories Arrests and Fines and jail to see that this is a real possibility.)
As stated elsewhere in this website, levels of laser light which may seem reasonable to laser enthusiasts cause problems for pilots. The simplest solution is to NEVER aim a laser at an aircraft.
Thanks to “Nordhavn” from laserpointerforums.com for bringing this video to our attention
Pilot Captain Mark Westwood told the court: "The overall effect was temporary blindness. I lost outside visual reference and could not see the instrumentation displayed in the aircraft.”
After the first incident he had to fly blind, taking emergency evasive action to position the helicopter out of the beam. He added: "It was a very dangerous manoeuvre, but I had to do it to get myself out of that dazzle."
Click to read more...