A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
The next night, a green laser beam was pointed for 5-10 seconds at a commercial aircraft as it was preparing to land in Charlottetown, which is about 60 km east of Fernwood. The beam came from the Brackley Beach area about 15 km northwest of the Charlottetown Airport, at about 11 pm local time. Neither pilot in the WestJet aircraft looked into the light; they were able to land without incident.
RCMP on July 17 asked the public for help in finding the perpetrators of these incidents.
A follow-up news story quoted a former pilot as saying the person responsible should “face justice.” He said it was a “very dangerous thing to have happen to you, and they are so destructive… Make the penalties very severe when they’re caught.”
In Canada, shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense punishable to up to five years in prison and/or up to $100,000.
On July 18, a witness contacted RCMP to say he was on Brackley Beach from 10:00 to 11:30 pm. He said a child of about 10-12 years old was using a laser to point at several things, including two aircraft. He said the child was tracing the path of a plane, but was not trying to shine it in the cockpit.
The child and his or her family is not known. RCMP said charges might not be placed in this case: “It does appear that this specific incident was a child at play and not a direct criminal offence. That being said, the child was in the custodial guardianship of two adults and RCMP are asking that items of this nature not be used for entertainment and not be provided to young children as they are unaware of the danger that they can inflict."
The director general for civil aviation, Aaron McRorie, said there were 333 reported incidents in 2012, 590 incidents in 2015, and 527 in 2016. He said there was only one reported laser/aircraft incident in PEI in the past five years; it took place in 2015.
McRorie said there have been no accidents in Canada due to such incidents but there have been some cases of permanent eye damage to pilots.
From CBC News (initial report, follow-up, witness report, McRorie quotes) and OHS Canada
Note: LaserPointerSafety reached out to Transport Canada for clarification about McRorie’s claim of cases of permanent eye damage to pilots. We will update this story when we receive a response.
Seeking Information Regarding Laser Strikes
Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for the Northern District of Ohio, and Calvin Williams, chief of Cleveland Division of Police, are seeking information regarding two recent laser strikes, one against a Cleveland Division of Police helicopter and one against a MetroHealth Life helicopter.
Both of these laser strikes occurred on July 4, 2017, at approximately 10:15 p.m. from the 3000 block of West 31st Street in Cleveland, Ohio.
The main hazard for aviation is that pilots can be distracted or temporarily flash-blinded by the light from a laser beam. The light often is a large light at aviation distances, unlike the tiny dot a laser makes at close range. Individuals often do not realize that traveling over hundreds of feet a tiny, two-centimeter laser beam spreads to become approximately six feet of light that can block a pilot’s vision. Most laser strike incidents reported occur at flights under 10,000 feet with the highest percentage being altitudes under 6,000 feet.
Laser strikes are investigated by local and federal law enforcement. Under 18 USC 39 (A), whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned. Under 49 USC Section 46301 (a) (5) (A), the FAA may seek a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation for aiming a laser at an aircraft in violation of C.F.R. Section 91.11.
The FBI and our law enforcement partners are asking the public if they have any knowledge of the laser strikes that occurred last week. If anyone has any information please call the Cleveland Division of the FBI at (216) 522-1400. Tips can remain anonymous and reward money is available for the successful identification and prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for these laser strikes.
Any questions regarding this news release can be directed to SA Vicki D. Anderson at the Cleveland Office of the FBI at (216) 522-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Sargent Jennifer Ciaccia at the Cleveland Division of Police at (216) 623-5033.
From an FBI Cleveland news release dated July 12 2017. Here are two typical news reports, from Fox8 and from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The instructor was not injured. There was no information available whether there was anyone else in the aircraft at the time.
The incident is being classified as “endangering an aircraft," and police are investigating.
From the Daily Mail
The incident took place in Richmond Hill, Georgia. The Coast Guard urged anyone with information to come forward.
“The cockpit crew of Alitalia flight AZ4000 on Friday 12 February noticed a laser light from the ground, as did other aircraft flying towards Mexico City, as they prepared to land at the Mexican capital’s airport. The aircraft Captain, Massimiliano Marselli, promptly reported to the control tower what the cockpit crew had witnessed, which is standard procedure with these type of matters, and similarly it is usual practice for the control tower to alert the competent, local authorities. None of our cockpit crew or any passengers on board were injured by the beam and the aircraft landed safely. The aircraft, an Airbus A330, was enroute from Havana in Cuba to Mexico.”
According to the Sun, air traffic control transmissions recorded a number of pilots reporting laser strikes.
From the New York Daily News; Alitalia statement tweeted by Jon Williams, foreign editor of ABC News. Thanks to Alberto Kellner for bringing this to our attention.
Virgin’s website stated that “Following this incident the first officer reported feeling unwell. The decision was taken by both pilots to return to Heathrow rather than continue the transatlantic crossing."
The airline said passengers would stay overnight and would then be able to fly to JFK Airport “as soon as possible”.
Police were attempting to find the laser source, said to be 6-7 miles from the airport. An article in the Daily Mail included a map showing the aircraft’s takeoff pattern, and the area where the laser beam was thought to have originated.
From the Telegraph, Daily Mail, BBC News and ITV. Audio recording from AirportWebcams.net.
UPDATED February 15 2016: The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) called for “the Government to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them.” From a statement on BALPA’s website, reprinted here.
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 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
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.”
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.
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.
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...
The source of the laser is unknown.
From KUSA 9 News
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
From Highland Radio and the Irish Mirror
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
Neither the rapist nor the laser perpetrator have been found, as of October 1 2014 when the NYPD made details of the incident public on their Facebook page.
From Pix11.com and the police Facebook page
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
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...
WKMG-TV’s helicopter was filming a football game at Paul J. Hagerty High School with the incident occurred. A screenshot of footage from the TV helicopter shows the bright green flash as the beam is aimed directly at the camera:
A second later, as the beam is aimed away from the camera, the laser location is visible in the crowd at the end of the bleachers:
A close-up of the video footage, taken just after the laser was turned off, shows the two suspects. The bright object at lower left inside the yellow circle appears to be the laser, held in the left suspect’s right hand.
According to the station, a sheriff’s department helicopter was also hit; presumably it was responding to the WKMG illumination. Deputies told WKMG reporter Shaun Chaiyabhat that they talked to two teenaged suspects, but the deputies think the teens might have passed the laser pointer to friends in the crowd.
Chaiyabhat said “The Sheriff’s Office is taking this very seriously because they say it could be a federal crime.”
UPDATED - September 22 2014: WKMG ran a recap and short update on the story. The laser was not only pointed at the helicopters, but “players on the field were also complaining of getting flashed by the bright light.” As of the update, no arrests had been made.
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
In the first incident, around 11:30 pm, a laser beam was aimed at the cockpit of a landing plane. Police were able to find five youths on a roof in south Regina. Of the three boys and two girls, one of the boys had a laser pointer. No one was charged though police were still investigating.
In the second incident, just before 2:30 am, the laser light came from north Regina and was aimed at a plane flying over south Regina. No suspects were identified.
From CBC News Saskatchewan
Police are investigating.
The Deseret News quoted the president of the Utah General Aviation Association, who said he had a laser aimed at his private plane while landing near Sandy, Utah. The beam entered the cockpit several times over about 10 seconds. "When the laser came into the cockpit, I realized immediately what it was, and specifically didn't look at it," Dave Haymond said. "In fact, (I) shielded my eyes with my hand. I knew what it was and how dangerous it was … and was able to protect myself from it. But it's a bad deal."
From the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News
The crew of a Transaero Boeing 777-200 flying from Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport to the Egyptian resort of Hurghada alerted air traffic controllers that someone in Maykop, in the Russian republic of Adygea (in Krasnodar) was shining a laser into the cockpit. "The unidentified person tried to blind the Transareo pilots for 20 seconds as they few over Maykop at 10:12 p.m. at an altitude of 11,000 meters," an official at the air traffic control center told Interfax.
The flight was not disrupted and continued to its destination.
In the second incident, someone aimed a green laser beam into the cockpit of UTair ATR-72 turboprop as it approached the Nizhny Novgorod airport to land at 10:55 p.m.. The plane, which had taken off from Moscow's Vnukovo Airport, safely landed.
It was no immediately clear how many passengers were on the two flights. But depending on the cabin configurations, the 777-200 can carry 300 to 440 passengers and the ATR-72 carries 68 to 74 passengers.
Pilots have regularly complained about being targeted by laser pointers in Russia over the past year. No accidents have occurred, but the State Duma has approved in a first reading a bill that would toughen penalties for people convicted of pointing lasers at planes. Currently, offenders face a small fine.
From the Moscow Times
From the Moscow Times
There were no reports of the laser’s effect immediately available.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, “a similar 2009 lasing incident left an Ornge pilot with serious eye damage and grounded for several weeks after he was hit by a laser beam while flying at about 2,000 feet over the Gatineau Hills.”
Statistics from Transport Canada list 461 reported laser incidents in 2013 -- an increase from the 357 reported in 2012. The Air Canada Pilots’ Association has asked for criminal penalties and more government control over laser devices.
From the Ottawa Citizen
Timothy Wilson, 46, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and of narcotics paraphernalia, and resisting or delaying arrest. Patrick Florez, 45, was arrested on suspicion of stolen property and false license plate tabs.
The strike force confiscated a stolen motorcycle, quantities of methamphetamine, and narcotics-related material, paraphernalia and a scale.
No laser was found and the investigation is continuing.
From the Bakersfield Californian
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.
No injuries were reported in the January 29 2014 incident.
In a Dallas incident that occurred the previous week. the co-pilot of a medical helicopter was treated at a hospital after having his right eye “burned’ by a green laser.
Michael Pruitt, 30, was heading to St. Paul University Hospital in Dallas with a patient when a laser was aimed from the area of Interstate 35 and Harry Hines Boulevard. Pruitt was struck in the right eye.
The helicopter made an unplanned landing at Dallas Love Field. The patient, Pruitt, and the flight nurse rose in an ambulance to the hospital, a distance of about 2 miles. At the hospital, Pruitt’s eye injury was examined.
A Dallas Police Department incident report says Pruitt sustained “a burn to his right eye” and was “unable to see out of it.”
A spokesman for his employer, Air Evac Lifeteam, said “Its my understanding he’s fine.” But Pruitt’s father said his son still cannot see out of his eye and has a headache: “We think his eye will be fine, but you never know until it heals. He’s been in a lot of pain.”
An FAA spokesperson said this was “the most significant injury we’ve seen in the DFW area.”
From NBCDFW.com and WFAA.com
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 first pilot said the green laser was large and was concentrated on his aircraft for a prolonged period of time. A ground officer was sent to the area where the laser was reported to have been sighted. In the meantime, a second plane was hit. The officer then saw a green beam target a third plane, for about five seconds. He could not pinpoint the exact location, and the beam did not reappear.
The FAA was notified and the case is being investigated.
From the Journal Gazette
The perpetrator was not located.
This was the fifth lasing thus far in 2013 for aircraft stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.
The pilot of the Tupolev Tu-204 jet, bound from the city of Krasnodar in south Russia to Moscow, said he was blinded by the beam as the plane was approaching Vnukovo Airport. The plane landed normally; all 220 passengers and 8 crew were unhurt. An investigation is underway.
A similar illumination occurred on August 24 2013, to an airplane on approach to Pulkovo-1 airport in St. Petersburg, according to a UPI report.
Click to read more...
One neighbor interviewed said a man had aimed a “bright blue light” at her children. A woman in the police-targeted house said her son-in-law was contacted by police but could not say if he was charged. She did say that police said they would turn the case over to the FBI.
The house is located about 21 miles southwest of Denver International Airport.
According to the FAA, there were 32 Denver-area laser/aircraft incidents during 2012, compared with 41 from January 1 to August 15 2013.
From Fox31 Denver
The first incident occurred shortly after midnight, when a laser pointer beam hit the cockpit of an Astana-bound airliner. The second took place less than an hour later, targeting a Moscow-London flight shortly after take-off, the Interior Ministry’s Transport Department said in a statement. “No one was harmed in either incident,” the department said.
The incidents are the latest in a string of similar attacks, with transport police reporting at least five aircraft being targeted by laser pointers in Moscow and St. Petersburg in the previous week alone.
After a series of incidents involving lasers near airports in 2011, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, a bill was introduced in the State Duma to punish violators with jail terms of up to seven years in prison. The Duma plans to look again at the bill in the fall 2013 session.
From RIA Novosti. See also this August 13 2013 story from Pravda, “Laser attacks against aircraft in Russia continue”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, at 9:20 pm the helicopter was about 10 miles south of Newark Liberty International Airport when it was illuminated with a green and white laser at 1,600 feet.
About a half hour later, a Boeing 737 and an Embraer 135 were targeted with a green laser while on final approach to Newark Liberty airport. They were at an altitude of 3,000 feet, one mile east of Teterboro Airport.
The two incidents are probably unrelated, since Teterboro Airport is about 13 miles north-northeast of Newark Liberty, and the helicopter was 10 miles south of Newark Liberty.
From The Republic
Police are seeking information about the incident.
From the Trader & Guardian
The director of operations for STAT MedEvac said that the medical helicopter is hit by lasers several times a year, and that the hits “can kill people.”
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.
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.
The First Officer was in command of the aircraft when two flashes of green laser light came into the cockpit, about 10 minutes before the plane landed safely at JFK. After landing, he went to a local hospital for an examination. Apparently, no other person on the flight was adversely affected by the laser light.
The FAA and FBI are investigating the incident.
Flight path of JetBlue Flight 657 on July 15 2012, from FlightAware
From myfoxny.com, NYCAviation.com, NBC 4 New York, and ABC News.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: The FAA defines a laser eye “injury” as anything which happens to an eye, including temporary afterimages and watering eyes. According to this definition, around 1.5% of all laser illuminations of aircraft result in an eye “injury”. In 2011 there were 55 FAA-reported “injuries” out of 3,191 total laser incidents. From Jan 1 to June 28 2012, there were 20 “injuries” out of 1,519 incidents.
Almost all of what FAA calls “injuries” are in fact normal eye effects resulting from bright light exposure. For example, a person temporarily flashblinded by a camera’s flash would be “injured” according to FAA, although eye safety experts clearly state that an afterimage is temporary bleaching of photoreceptors and is not an injury.
Using a scientific definition of visible laser eye injury, meaning a minimally visible lesion on the retina, there have been no documented permanent laser eye injuries to pilots in any of the over 11,000 FAA laser incidents on record. This is according to FAA’s top laser/aviation safety expert. There have been roughly 3-5 temporary laser eye injuries where pilots had a lesion which was medically visible, and which subsequently healed to leave no spots or other adverse vision effect.
This is not to discount any eye effect or distraction of pilots -- aiming lasers at aircraft is a crime and a serious safety issue. But FAA should be more accurate, and give additional information, when providing information about pilot eyes affected by laser light.
A KSDK reporter quoted a St. Louis County Police helicopter pilot as saying “just about everyone who flies gets hit with a laser pointer at some point.” It is not clear if the pilot is referring to police helicopter pilots or to all pilots. (A LaserPointerSafety.com analysis shows that in the U.S., the chance of a pilot seeing a laser beam on any given flight in a single year, as of 2012, is about once in every 14,000 flights. This is based on 50,522,825 operations at U.S. airports Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011 according to FAA’s Air Traffic Activity System, divided by 3,591 laser incidents in 2011, to give one incident for every 14,069 operations.)
From KSDK and KMOV
Police in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan are searching for the perpetrators. They believe the laser beams came from around South Valley Airport.
From KTVU.com, the Salt Lake Tribune, and Fox13now.com
POLICE INVESTIGATE LASER LIGHT ATTACKS - MIRANDA
Police are investigating two separate laser light incidents in Sydney’s south.
About 7:50pm, Sunday 6 May 2012, a Boeing 767 was on approach to Sydney Airport and flying over the Kurnell area when a green laser was pointed at the aircraft. The plane landed safely and police were notified about the incident. Despite police patrols of Kurnell, Bonna Point Reserve and the Botany Bay National Park the culprit of the laser attack was not located.
In another incident, about 12:45am today police were called to a petrol station on the corner of Port Hacking Road and The Kingsway after the store attendant reported a green laser light being shone at the premises. The beam was reported to have come from the vicinity of Kareena Road and despite patrols of the area police could not find any trace of those involved.
Police from Miranda Local Area Command are investigating both incidents and urge anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Members of the public are reminded that high powered lasers are prohibited weapons and cannot be possessed without a permit.
[End NSW Police Force press release]
The map shows the Kurnell region (red oval) where the laser was aimed at the aircraft,
and the location of the petrol station (“A” marker), relative to Sydney Airport (center of map).
The FBI office in Lima, Ohio is investigating the incident.
From the Otago Daily Times
From CTV News
The Saab C40 aircraft was passing Strathblane (red open circle) when it was lased.
The ground distance is about 8.5 miles from Glasgow Airport (green triangle).
The December 27 2011 incident began as the aircraft was hovering 500 feet above the crime scene in Fillmore. A laser beam was aimed at the cockpit. The crew broke off to find the suspect, but was unable to locate them. The helicopter returned to the crime scene where a laser was once again pointed at them. The crew broke off once more. A potential suspect was identified, but ground units determined the person was not involved.
The crew then made the determination that due to the laser aimings it was too dangerous to fly. They ended both the search for the shooting suspect, and the search for the laser perpetrator.
A sheriff’s department spokesperson said there had been several previous laser illuminations of the helicopter in Fillmore. He was unsure whether the Dec. 27 incident was related, but said “I would hope they are related, because if they are not, that would mean there is more than one person doing it.”
From the Ventura County Star
UPDATE December 29 2011 (1:49 PM): An arrest has been made in this case. Torrey Phillips, 20, was arrested on December 28 on an outstanding felony warrant stemming from two criminal threats convictions. Deputies found a green laser in his possession. Bail was set at $40,000. The Ventura County Star story does not state how deputies linked Phillips with the previous evening’s lasing of the sheriff’s department helicopter.
It is about 1600 feet (ground distance) from the helicopter location (open red circle) to Phillips’ home where he was arrested (black square). Address information from KEYT.
From The Moscow Times
Four commuter jets were illuminated on Friday between 6:06 and 7:56 pm. On Saturday, a commuter jet and a Boeing 757 were illuminated around 7:00 pm. The aircraft were between 1600 and 2500 feet when struck by the laser beams. There were no reports of injuries, eye effects, or flight deviations.
Aviation expert John Trepani said the clustering of the incidents was troubling: “That’s unusual and highly disturbing. Do we have people fooling around or do we have people who have bad intentions to airliners using a sighting, using a laser as a sighter, a weapon’s sighter, just to see the reaction, just to see if Homeland Security takes this seriously?”
Trepani was also troubled by the fact that all aircraft landed on Runway 4, which CBS called “one of the most difficult runways at LaGuardia” (although this claim was disputed by a pilot in the comments).
Anyone with information can contact local police and/or the FAA. LaserPointerSafety.com has a page about how to report laser incidents; the page includes FAA contact information.
From MSNBC.com and CBS New York
From BBC News
The airport manager said he would contact police, to try to find the person who tracked the aircraft with the laser.
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
There were 182 laser illuminations in Canada in 2010, according to Transport Canada. Fourteen of these took place in Alberta.
From the Calgary Herald
An airline spokesperson said there was no effect on the pilots. A police helicopter searched for suspects but did not find any. A St. Louis County Police Department spokesperson said county police are not investigating. The FAA and FBI were notified. STLtoday.com quoted an FBI spokesperson as saying the agency was not investigating because “no one was arrested and no one was hurt.” However, KSDK said the FBI was conducting an investigation.
St. Louis has been a focus since July, when local authorities held a media campaign to inform the public about the dangers and consequences of aiming at aircraft.
From STLtoday.com and KSDK
From Military.com News
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
From the Idaho Statesman. A short video report is at KTVB.
Class 3B and 4 lasers (for visible continuous output lasers, above 500 mW) have been banned in Italy since 1998, according to AvioNews.
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.
From 9 News and the NSW Police
Coast Guard and Navy personnel boarded the vessel on April 7 but were unable to find any laser device, or evidence of a possible device. U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly was then examined by military laser eye injury experts, who found “there was a high probability that the minor burns on the lieutenant's right retina were caused by multiple laser exposures such as might result from a single glimpse at a repetitive pulsed laser.”
The American naval officer took this photo in the Strait of Juan de Fuca showing a red light on the M/V Kapitan Man. The light led some to suspect a laser. However, subsequent inspection did not find a laser, and in the location of the red light were “two deep red running lights … that met the guidelines established for sidelights.”
The U.S. Defense Department concluded that “[a]vailable evidence does not indicate…what the source of such an exposure might have been. Specifically, there is no physical evidence tying the eye injury of the American officer to a laser located on the Russian merchant vessel.”
The Strait of Juan de Fuca laser incident was also discussed in the August 2004 medical journal Archives of Ophthalmology. The article “Assessment of Alleged Retinal Laser Injuries” describes “Case 5” and concludes that “…[n]o evidence of laser injury was found in the years after the incident by 17 other ophthalmologists, including 5 neuro-ophthalmalogists and 8 retina specialists. A trial was held 5 years after the incident in which the retina specialist who made the initial diagnosis steadfastly maintained all the photographer’s [naval officer’s] symptoms were due to retinal laser injury. A jury ruled against the photographer’s claim for damages against the ship’s owner.… The patient had real complaints, but they were caused by preexisting autoimmune problems rather than by laser injury.”
The full text of the DOD press release, and the “Case 5” study is below (click the “Read More…” link). Additional information above is from a 2011 Washington Times story.
Police are asking the public for any information. A police spokesman said the lasers were “powerful enough to cause permanent eye damage.”
From Taiwan News and Kiev Post
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.
This incident comes just over one week after an FBI/police media effort in St. Louis to inform residents about laser/aircraft hazards.
From STLtoday.com and KSDK TV (which has a video report online)
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.
No one has yet been caught in the incident, which took place over Terrell, Texas which is about 30 miles east of Dallas.
From a NSW Police press release and Sky News Australia
From the Times of India
Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: The spokesperson does not seem well informed. Lasers can emit visible light; red and green are the most common colors for pointers and handheld lasers. Further, light from a pointer or handheld laser can be visible to pilots at many thousands or even tens of thousands of feet. LED lights have a much broader beam and thus far, there have been no reports of an LED flashlight or device being used to interfere with pilot vision while airborne.
UPDATE, June 26 2011: Two supervisors of a construction site were detained for questioning. Police found that employees used pointers “as a communication tool at the site. The laser beams are pointed at colleagues to call them over instead of using phones or walkie-talkies.” The lasers cost about Rs 500. A local planetarium and the Indian Institution of Technology were cleared, since officials told police they had not used lasers at night. From the Times of India
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.
On June 8, a pilot was blinded by a laser pointer while landing a Boeing passenger plane in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, but managed to land safely. The beam came from the area of a local market.
Earlier in the week a pilot of an Airbus A320 plane was blinded by a laser light during landing at the same airport
From RIA Novosti
Violators could be charged with interfering with air crew duties. The Authority is looking for the laser perpetrator(s), and has posted notices in newspapers stating that shining lights at aircraft is “a security offense”. Also, several pilots have filed complaints with the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority.
From the Virgin Islands News Online
From the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Police said that the penalty for endangering aircraft can be up to 14 years in prison.
From the Waikato Times and Television New Zealand
New South Wales prohibits the possession of laser pointers without a permit, and classifies them as dangerous weapons.
From the Sydney Morning Herald
The first incident happened about 9 pm, the second was at 10:25 and the third came at 10:28. The pilot of the third airplane was illuminated directly in the eye; there was no reported injury.
News accounts noted that “high powered laser pointers are prohibited weapons and can’t be possessed without a permit.”
From Sky News and the Sydney Morning Herald
The perpetrator could be charged with reckless endangerment. Anyone with information is asked to call the state police at 717-865-2194.
There was no word as to whether the crew member claimed an injury, or had a non-injurious light exposure.
From WHTM. Note that the online story stated Route “465” at the time we viewed it, but police confirmed this is a typo; the road is Route 645.
According to the FBI, the eyes of both pilots were injured. The pilots “took their eyes off of the instruments during final approach, but the aircraft landed safely.”
The reward money is coming from both the FBI and Maryland Transportation Authority Police. Anyone with information is urged to contact the FBI at 410-265-8080 or the Maryland Transportation Authority Police at 410-859-7041.
From the Baltimore Sun and HometownAnnapolis.com. Thanks to Dan Hewett, FDA/CDRH for bringing this to our attention.
The reporter in the helicopter was surprised a laser could be so intense: “I didn’t realize how bright it was,” Tammy Rose was quoted as saying. “From the ground, it doesn’t look like it shoots that far into the sky. … I was surprised at how much it actually lit up the screens. It’s very dangerous. People don’t understand the gravity of the situation.“
Police went door to door after the 6:30 am Friday Feb. 25 2011 illumination, in an attempt to find a suspect. As of Monday Feb. 28 no results had been reported.
The animation above shows frames from just before and just after a direct hit on the news helicopter. For the complete video, visit the link below. (Don’t click on the gray “Play” button in the center -- it is part of the screen capture, and is not a working button.)
From 3TV (azfamily.com)
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was about 2 miles from the runway when it was hit. The incident was reported to local police.
As of January 19, no suspect has been identified.
From SB Nation and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
According to WABC, on Saturday April 17, a JetBlue flight originating in Portland, Maine was landing at JFK “when suddenly the pilots were distracted by an intensely bright green laser”. According to tower transcripts, the pilot said the laser was “directly pointing right at us. I saw the flash to the left looked, looked out left as I was landing. Put my head down, put up the sun screen.” [Note: This is a good reaction. Although the pilot initially looked towards the light, the pilot then took steps to reduce the light’s effect.]
It was not clear from the story what type of aircraft -- fixed wing or helicopter -- the pilot was flying at the time.
Captain Barry Wiszniowski of the Air Canada Pilots Association, stated "Our judicial system has to understand the severity of the consequences. It would be catastrophic if a pilot was impaired by a laser and lost all situational awareness."
More statistics and information from Canadian OH&S News.
CTV Toronto reported that "[t]his is estimated to be the sixth such incident in Toronto in the past year. About a dozen have occurred in Ontario, and more than 30 across Canada."
More details from CTV.ca
The second-night suspects were not found, as of the following day.
More at WIVB.com and the last two paragraphs of this Buffalo News story.
All the planes were targeted during a 20-minute period Sunday night, and all landed safely. But the incident led to pilots simultaneously trying to avoid being temporarily blinded by the light while trying to help authorities pinpoint its source, believed to be about a mile north of the airport.
Air traffic controllers continuously cautioned pilots about the light during the episode, which lasted from 7:10 to 7:30 p.m. PT.
A pilot reported the source to be a block and a half west of an interstate. Airport authorities said they conducted two searches of the area but did not find the culprit.
Officials note that it is a federal crime to point a laser light at an aircraft, and pilots are required to report encounters with laser lights. Officials fear that the lights could cause an accident by blinding pilots or otherwise affecting their night vision.
The FBI has “made it a priority” to investigate laser incidents, according to CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve.. MSNBC reports that the Transportation Safety Administration is also involved in the investigation.
Additional details from CNN and MSNBC. A CNN video of the news story “Lasers aimed at planes”, reported by Jeanne Meserve, is also available from CNN’s website. The video adds information on the FBI which is not in the website print version.
UPDATE: On March 6 2009, police arrested Christopher C. Saunders on the felony charge of first-degree unlawful discharge of a laser. His apartment is in Burien, near the area where the lasers originated. According to the Seattle Times, Saunders told police he was “pointing the light in multiple directions outside a party and may have layered a plane.” From KOMOnews and the Seattle Times.
UPDATE #2: A March 25 2009 AP story stated that Saunders had been released with no charges filed against him. The story also noted that a laser was aimed at an Alaska Airlines flight landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The source of the laser was “near the source of previous laser reports.” From SignOnSanDiego quoting KOMO television.
Below is the YouTube video (click the play triangle to start the video). The laser perpetrator is located in the street intersection. The incident happens from about 5:00 to 5:04 in the video.
The illuminations are don’t appear to be as bright or disruptive as those in the UK helicopter footage here. However, no matter how low-powered the laser or how brief the illumination, lasers should NEVER be aimed at helicopters, aircraft or other vehicles.
Thanks to Andy Faulkner of Laser Shows S.R.L. in Bucharest for bringing this to our attention, and to Peter Broerse of DMXLASER in the Netherlands for the frame grab.
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