A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

News: Aviation incidents


This webpage has a chronological list of selected aviation-related laser pointer incidents. We also have news pages for non-aviation incidents, and for all other laser pointer news (includes overall statistics about incidents, new laws and regulations, and safety warnings and publications). In addition, the What’s new at the website page lists major changes, updates, and additions to LaserPointerSafety.com.

We sometimes add older news items; since the list is chronological, items new to this page won’t always appear at the top. You may want to scroll down to see if there are new items since the last time you visited.

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US: Citizen calls 911, concerned that laser-pointing man would aim at aircraft

The following appeared in a newspaper's list of police blotter reports from Kalispell, Montana:

"A customer leaving a store was concerned a man sitting in an SUV and playing with a green laser pointer in the parking lot would point it at the airstrip to mess with planes."

From the April 1, 20201 Daily Inter Lake. (Despite the date, the story and the account were standard news, not an April Fools joke.)

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

This is one of the first news items we have seen where a member of the general public notified authorities because of concern about pointing a laser beam at aircraft. It shows a case of a person having knowledge that lasers do present a hazard to aviation, and consequently taking action. This news item has been given a Tag "Notifying authorities" which we will use for any similar stories.

US: Crew member seeks medical help after laser aimed at Customs helicopter

A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Blackhawk helicopter was illuminated with laser light on March 24 2021 near Bellingham, Washington. One of the two CBP agents onboard sought medical attention for an unspecified eye injury or issue.

The helicopter had been doing training approaches to Bellingham International Airport when the cockpit was illuminated. Deputies on the ground located 34-year-old Ronald Gregory Boettcher. He said he did not have a laser and did not aim a laser at an aircraft. Deputies found he did have a laser pointer. He was arrested on suspicion of unlawful discharge of a laser.

The CBP agent's medical condition and prognosis was not available.

From The Columbian and TickleTheWire.com

US: 12 months probation for Virgina woman aiming laser at police aircraft during protest

A woman from Richmond, Virginia was sentenced on March 23 2021 to 12 months probation for aiming a laser beam at a police aircraft during a protest.

On June 4 2020, a green laser beam was aimed at the aircraft, which was monitoring civil unrest at the [Robert E.] Lee Monument, a 21-foot tall statue of the Confederate general sitting on a 40-foot pedestal. The air crew directed officers on the ground. They found and arrested 33-year-old Amanda Robinson.

In November 2020 she pleaded guilty. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the mother of 4, who had no previous criminal record, could have been jailed for up to 6 months. Both her lawyer and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia asked for no jail time, because Robinson did not know that shining a laser at aircraft was hazardous, and because she cooperated with prosecutors.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch

UK: Virgin Atlantic flight turns back after laser strike

According to Virgin Atlantic airlines:

"On 15 March 2021 flight VS453, operating from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, returned to Heathrow after take-off due to a laser beam incident upon departure.

The safety and security of our people and our customers is paramount and this was a precautionary step taken by the operating crew.

We'd like to thank our customers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused.

All customers were offered overnight accommodation and we are working hard to ensure they are able to continue their journeys as soon as possible.

As is standard procedure for a laser incident, we swiftly notified the police and remain in close contact with them and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)."


The Boeing Dreamliner B789 aircraft took off from Heathrow at 9:34 pm GMT. At about 10:00 pm, while flying at an altitude of 41,000 ft, it began a U-turn southwest of Paris. The flight landed back at Heathrow at 10:47 pm.


2021-03-15 Virgin Atlantic 453 Heathrow 01 before turn 50pct
Approximately 10:00 pm the aircraft begins its U-turn

2021-03-15 Virgin Atlantic 453 Heathrow 02 after turn 50pct
A few minutes later, it is on its way back to Heathrow…

2021-03-15 Virgin Atlantic 453 Heathrow 03 on approach 50pct
… landing at 10:47 pm.

According to the Aviation Herald, the pilot was climbing out of Heathrow when the captain was illuminated by a laser beam. His or her condition worsened, with vision in only one eye, so the crew decided to turn back. They declared a "pan-pan", which is an urgent situation not posing an immediate danger. (This call is one level down from a "mayday", meaning imminent danger to life or the aircraft.)

The Aviation Herald also cited an Israeli media report that the laser perpetrator had been arrested.

From the
Aviation Herald and the Daily Mail. Graphics from FlightAware.com

COMMENTARY BY LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

This is the second time we are aware of that a commercial flight has turned back after having laser light from the ground interfere with the crew. On February 14 2016, a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to New York was illuminated by green laser light 6 miles west of London while flying at 8,000 feet. That flight continued for a while but then turned back over Ireland due to the first officer having vision problems. A story with links is here.

We have also reported on a few other times that aircraft have changed course, or the many times that police or other public service flights have had a mission interrupted, because of laser interference.

UK: 59-year-old convicted of aiming a laser at a police helicopter

A 59-year-old man was convicted after a "sustained laser attack" on a National Air Police Helicopter flying over Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire on April 11 2020.

The helicopter crew directed Humberside Police to a location where Trevor Cheeseman was arrested. He pleaded not guilty in December 2020. In early March 2021, Cheeseman was given a 12 month sentence, suspended four months. He was convicted of shining a laser beam towards a person providing air services, causing the laser beam to dazzle or distract that person.

From GrimsbyLive. Although the story says the sentence was 12 months with four months suspended, the headline states "Man avoids prison…" The apparent discrepancy may be due to factors of British law or judicial terms.

US: Colorado group says crew member lost vision permanently after 2017 laser strike

Two separate February 19 2021 news reports about a Colorado air medical transport group, Flight For Life, say that in 2017 a crew member suffered permanent vision loss after being illuminated with laser light from the ground. According to an article in the Pueblo Chieftain, "In 2017, a respiratory therapist flying out of Denver permanently lost 30% of his vision in his right eye."

This was echoed in a TV report on KRDO, where a registered nurse said "In 2017, we had a crew member hit with a laser, he lost 30% of his vision in his right eye, and that was permanent damage." Another nurse told the TV reporter that after a laser illumination, "I lost my vision for a few minutes due to black circles. And then I had about a three to seven day [period] of almost just sand and painful vision for a few days."

No further details were given in the news reports. On March 1, LaserPointerSafety.com reached out to Flight for Life for more information.

Both accounts described how Flight For Life helicopter crews in Southern Colorado have been subjected to laser illuminations that have been recently increasing.

In both accounts a crew member described the light as being similar to directly looking at a camera flash. According to the Pueblo Chieftain article, "Several Flight For Life members across Colorado have had to take time off in the past to allow their eyes to heal after a laser strike."

From the Pueblo Chieftain and KDRO

UK: Six months for "idiot", "liar" who claimed he pointed his laser at a UFO

A judge sentenced a 39-year-old man to six months in jail, after he repeatedly aimed a laser at a police helicopter, claiming it was a UFO.

On August 17 2020, the aircraft was searching for a missing person in Keighley, West Yorkshire when it was illuminated by laser light multiple times. There was no apparent ill effect on the pilot other than closing his eyes as a reflex. The crew located the source and passed the information to ground officers.

When Benjamin Fort was arrested, he first said he had been using the laser to look for rabbits, then said he aimed the laser at a "UFO". Fort said the laser pen was inexpensive so he did not think the light would get near the helicopter.

At trial, the judge said both explanations were lies: "…the reality is there was no, and never could be, any justification for what you did."

During the trial, Fort's past issues with alcohol, severe depression, and paranoia were raised. For example, at the first sentencing hearing in January 2021, Fort arrived drunk. Three officers took him to a holding cell to sleep off his inebriation. Sentencing was re-scheduled for February 26 2021.

On that date, the judge said he wanted Fort to spend years in prison because he was an "idiot" for aiming at the helicopter. He did not think such a long sentence would be sustained at appeal, so he handed down a sentence of six months.

From BBC News and the Telegraph & Argus

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

Two brothers, age 15 ad 18, were arrested on February 20 2021 for aiming a laser at a Kern County Sheriff's Office helicopter in Bakersfield.

The pilot was able to direct ground officers to a home where the two teens were arrested for discharging a laser at an aircraft while in flight.

From KGET.com

US: Florida man aims laser towards helicopter, arrested with meth

33-year-old Stephen Gladu was arrested February 15 2021 for shining a green laser three times at an Indian River County Sheriff's Office helicopter.

Both the pilot and tactical officer had the laser light shined into their eyes. They found the source was a vehicle. A deputy on the ground stopped Gladu, who told them he had been watching the stars. He said he was not aiming at the helicopter and any hit was accidental.

During the arrest, Gladu was found to have 7 grams of crystal methamphetamine in a baggie.

Gladu, who lives in Riverview in Hillsborough County, was charged with misuse of laser lighting and possession of a controlled substance.

Stephen Gladu laser squashed
Stephen Gladu


From TCPalm

US: Virginia woman pleads guilty to aiming laser at police aircraft during protest

From a press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, dated November 23 2020:

Woman Pleads Guilty to Aiming Laser Pointer at Police Aircraft

RICHMOND, Va. – A Henrico woman pleaded guilty today to aiming a laser pointer at a police aircraft while at the Robert E. Lee Monument during a period of civil unrest.

According to court documents, on June 4, Amanda Robinson, 33, traveled to the Robert E. Lee Monument traffic circle located in Richmond. While at the traffic circle, Robinson pointed her laser pointer at a 2006 Cessna aircraft flying above her location operated by police officers of the Metropolitan Aviation Unit. The Metropolitan Aviation Unit officers were conducting aerial surveillance patrols during a period of civil unrest. In aiming the laser pointer, Robinson struck the aircraft on at least two separate occasions and disrupted the pilot’s vision. Using an onboard camera, the police officers identified Robinson as the individual aiming the laser pointer and directed police units to her location. Upon arriving to the Robert E. Lee Monument traffic circle, police patrol units detained Robinson and recovered a green laser pointer from her possession.

Click to read more...

US: Bakersfield Calif. man indicted for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter

From a press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California, dated January 25 2021:

Bakersfield Man Indicted for Laser Strikes on Sheriff Helicopter

FRESNO, Calif. — Andrew Nathan Hernandez, 18, of Bakersfield, was arrested today for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, on Dec. 26, 2020, Hernandez aimed the beam of a laser pointer at the Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter Air-1. Hernandez is scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bakersfield Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Hernandez faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charge is only an allegation; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

US: Two arrested during MLK Day demonstration at San Jose mayor's home

Two persons were arrested for aiming a laser pointer at a police aircraft and at officers on the ground, during a Martin Luther King. Jr. Day demonstration at the home of the mayor of San Jose, Calif. One person was an adult; the other was a juvenile.

The January 18 2021 incident resulted in declaring the gathering an "unlawful assembly" so police could legally disperse the crowd.

In a tweet, San Jose police said of the laser strike "This is not only a felony but extremely dangerous for our pilot and crew. This will not be tolerated."

From a San Francisco Chronicle article (paywall) excerpted at Patch.com

Wales: Man claims rescue helicopter in the way of laser beam; search called off due to laser strike

A 29-year-old man was sentenced on January 6 2021 to 30 weeks in prison for aiming a £9 laser pen at a police helicopter searching for a missing teenager in Swansea, Wales.

On September 2 2020, a National Police Air Service helicopter with a crew of three was searching for a missing female teen at about 2:40 am when it was hit by five or six "bright green, sharp lights" lasting 5-10 seconds each. The pilot was momentarily blinded and was disoriented; another crew member was dazzled. The crew abandoned the search due to the pilot's loss of vision.

Ground officers went to a location pinpointed by the helicopter's thermal imaging camera. They smelled marijuana and found William Andrew David James Fellowes with a laser pen. He later told police he had been pointing at stars and the pilot got in his way. He said he did not know the sky light was a helicopter and thought it was a bird, a satellite or a hot air balloon.

Fellowes pleaded guilty to directing a laser beam towards a moving police helicopter in violation of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act of 2018.

At trial the prosector said the aircraft was circling at 1,000 feet with its flying lights illuminated. He said the aircraft would have been obvious to ground observers.

The court was told that Fellowes had 30 previous offenses, including battery, possession of a knife, criminal damage, theft, and possession of cannabis with intent to supply.

Fellowes defense barrister said he "now realized how serious his actions had been and was remorseful for what he had done."

The judge found that Fellowes had not deliberately meant to harm the crew but his actions could have resulted in an accident, and did result in diverting the missing person search.

After sentencing, a South Wales Police superintendent said "National Police Air Service are a valuable partner who regularly assist us with our policing operations and searches. On this occasion they were performing a vital duty and assisting us to look for a vulnerable and suicidal young girl who had been reported missing…. The actions of this individual not only prevented them from carrying out these important duties but potentially could have had devastating effects in causing the helicopter to crash."

The head of safety at the National Police Air Service said during 2020 there had been an average of six laser attacks per month on its aircraft.

From Wales Online. The article includes photos and a video from the police helicopter.

US: Florida man arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter; pilot gets medical treatment

A 32-year-old man was arrested for repeatedly aiming a green laser beam at an Orange County (Florida) Sheriff's Office helicopter on November 5 2020.

The pilot was able to direct ground officer's to the laser's location. Jason Ogle had a laser in his hand but threw it inside a house's doorway as deputies approached.

2020-11-11 Orange County Sheriff laser squashed
Screenshot from Sheriff's Office video. Jason Ogle's body and head is the gray blob above the beam location in the middle of the screen.


Ogle was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot.

The pilot sought medical treatment for unspecified issues with his eyes.

From ClickOrlando.com. Video from the helicopter is available on the web page.

US: Georgia man arrested for pointing a laser at a police helicopter "for fun"

On November 9 2020, a 47-year-old man was arrested for aiming a green laser at a Gwinnett (Georgia) police helicopter.

The pilot helped guide ground officers to a home where they met Fredy A. Contreras. He initially denied involvement. But after being told the laser beam was on video, he admitted pointing the laser at the helicopter "for fun."

Contreras was arrested and charged with obstruction and with laser use against an aircraft. In addition, his case will be referred to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and to the U.S. Attorney for possible federal prosecution, which has a penalty of up to five years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine.

Fredy Contreras laser squashed
Fredy Contreras


A police spokesperson said "Pointing a laser at an aircraft is extremely dangerous as it can hinder the pilot’s ability to handle the aircraft and interfere with the equipment on board. The police department wants the general public to know that this is unlawful.”

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution and MSN News

Australia: Man aims laser at police helicopter; laser found in freezer

On November 4 2020, a laser beam was aimed at a Melbourne, Victoria police helicopter. The crew directed ground officers to a home where a man evaded the officers and tried to lock himself inside the house.

Police went in through the unlocked back door and after a struggle, arrested a 43-year-old man. In the home's freezer, police found a laser pointer, as well as two imitation firearms elsewhere on the property.

The man is expected to be charged with endangering the safe operation of an aircraft, reckless conduct endangering life, possession of a prohibited weapon [the laser], assaulting police and resisting arrest.

From 7news.com.au

UK: Man did not understand danger when aiming laser pen at helicopter

A 23-year-old man who shone a laser pen at a helicopter dazzling its pilot did not understand how dangerous what he was doing could be, a court has heard.

Cosmin-Iulian Alexa of Burton-on-Trent, a market town in the West Midlands, pleaded guilty to shining a laser beam at the helicopter on September 15 2019.

In a November 3 2020 sentencing hearing in Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court, Alexa said he had a lack of understanding of the consequences.

Alexa was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison. He could have received 12 months, but the prosecution suspended this because Alexa pleaded guilty and showed remorse for his actions.

In addition, he had an 8-week nightly curfew, had to pay £85 (USD $111) in court costs and a £122 ($160) victims surcharge, and had his laser pen confiscated.

From Derbyshire Live

US: 3 trick-or-treaters arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter on Halloween

On Halloween night, October 31 2020, three trick-or-treaters were arrested in Fort Meyers, Florida for intentionally aiming a green laser at a Lee County Sheriff's Office Aviation Unit helicopter.

Lee County Fl Haloween 2020 laser squashed
Screenshot from Lee County Sheriff's Office video which is available on Facebook, link here. The person on the left is aiming a laser at the helicopter. The bright green beam is not visible in this photo because the infrared (non-visible heat) camera is in use.

The helicopter crew directed ground units to the three persons, who were getting candy at the time.

Click to read more...

US, Mexico: Countries working to identify lasers aimed at US border patrol helicopters

U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Yuma is working with the government of Mexico to identify persons aiming lasers at border patrol aircraft from the Mexican side or the border. The director of the Yuma Air Branch said he lasing is "most likely an attempt to distract … and interfere with the enforcement operations." Equipment on the aircraft can identify the location of the laser perpetrator; this information is then forwarded to Mexican authorities.

Lasing of aircraft happens "regularly" during night operations, and usually the source is in Mexico. In February 2020, it happened "several times in a shift and over several days as well" according to a special operations supervisor. The Yuma Sector Border Patrol's Foreign Operations Branch contacted the government of Mexico, who tried but were unable to apprehend laser perpetrators.

Later in the year (approximately October 2020), an operation was conducted in Texas to specifically identify perpetrators. Two persons suspected of lasing aircraft were arrested in the Mexican city of Acuña.

The special operations supervisor said the goal is to not only locate and arrest laser perpetrators, but to stop lasing of border patrol aircraft from happening.

From a November 2 2020 story in The Desert Review

US: California man arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter

A man was arrested on October 27 2020 for deliberately tracking a red laser beam at a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Division helicopter, near Oak Hills, California.

David Whitaker, 22, was stopped in a vehicle. An officer said that Whitaker was trying to see how far the laser would be visible, and knew he was aiming at a helicopter.

He was arrested for pointing a laser at an aircraft, and was held in jail on $25,000 bail.

From VVNG

US: Man pleads guilty to aiming laser beam at airplane in Montana

From an October 28 2020 press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

A Missoula, Montana man today admitted he aimed a laser beam at an airplane as it was approaching the Great Falls airport, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

Brian John Loven, 42, pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. Loven faces a maximum five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Chief Judge Morris set sentencing for Feb. 25 2021. Loven was released.

The prosecution said in court documents that at about 9:40 p.m. on March 3 2020, two pilots operating a SkyWest flight reported that on their descent to the Great Falls airport, the plane was hit with a bright green laser that lit up the cockpit. The pilots reported that the incident occurred on the east end of town in the area of Giant Springs State Park.

Cascade County Sheriff’s deputies dispatched to the area located a Jeep driving slowly through the parking lot of Heritage Park, which was closed at the time. Loven was a passenger. The driver told deputies that she was learning how to drive a manual transmission car. While speaking with the driver, deputies noticed a small, black pen-like device sticking out of the center cup holder and asked about the item. The driver retrieved the device, said it was a laser pointer and activated it. The laser pointer projected a green light onto the dashboard.

Deputies interviewed Loven, who admitted to shining the laser at an airplane while it was approaching the airport. Loven explained that he was unaware it was a federal offense to shine a laser at a plane and just wanted to “test out the distance of the laser.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Starnes is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Transportation Security Administration, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office and Airport Security.

Updated February 25 2021

Loven was sentenced on Feb. 25 to three years of probation. U.S. government prosecutors had recommended 15 to 21 months in prison, based on sentencing guidelines.

Contrary to some news reports, the only punishment was probation according to a spokesperson for the U.S. District Attorney's office who spoke to LaserPointerSafety.com on March 1 2021.

A story by KRTV news quoted court documents saying that "Loven’s lengthy criminal history spans three decades and includes convictions for burglary, theft, and various public nuisance crimes. At 42 years of age, Loven shows no signs of slowing down or aging out of his criminal conduct."

It is not known why Loven was given more lenient punishment than prosecutors sought.

From a February 25 2021 press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana, and KRTV.com

US: San Diego man aimed laser at police helicopter during protest

38-year-old Stephen Glenn McLeod aimed a laser at a San Diego Police Department helicopter multiple times, during a protest on August 28 2020. He was arraigned October 20 on a federal felony charge which has a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. His next court date is November 20.

From NBC San Diego

US: Two separate arrests for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter; in one, pilot blinded for 3-5 minutes

In two separate incidents, a laser beam was pointed at the Volusia County (Florida) Sheriff's Office helicopter.

On September 22 2020, 29-year-old Ryan Hutton was arrested for aiming a green laser pointer at the helicopter while he was on a boat. The helicopter had been on a burglary call. The pilot's vision in his right eye was affected for about three to five minutes "like a flashbulb going off in front of his eye" according to a news story.

Hutton told arresting officers he thought the helicopter was a drone.

A day later, 60-year-old Gregory Marr aimed at the Sheriff's Office helicopter while they were conducting a search. Officers from nearby Flagler County were directed to Marr's home.

Gregory Marr laser squashed
Gregory Marr


Both men were charged with pointing a laser at a driver or pilot.

From ClickOrlando.com

Canada: Four laser illuminations over Vancouver Island

A Cessna pilot reported being illuminated by a green laser for about 10 seconds on July 26 2020. Three other laser incidents were reported by airplane and helicopter pilots on July 28. All four illuminations occurred over Saltair, on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

There had been previous reports of laser interference in late June 2020.

From the Nanaimo News Bulletin and CTV News

Canada: Man aims laser at aircraft, police; results in 14 criminal charges

The following press release dated July 22 2020 is from the City of Calgary Newsroom:

Charges laid after laser pointed at HAWCS and patrol units


Investigators have laid multiple drug, weapons and Aeronautics Act charges following an incident where a laser was pointed at several officers.

On Friday, July 17, 2020, at approximately 2:50 a.m., Helicopter Air Watch for Community Safety (HAWCS) was responding to a call for service when a laser was pointed into the eyes of the Tactical Flight Officer working in HAWCS. Minutes later, a laser was also shone into the eyes of patrol officers who were in two different marked police vehicles in the downtown area. The Tactical Flight Officer was able to determine that the source of the laser came from an apartment located in the 200 block of 15 Avenue S.E.

Patrol units attended the apartment and conducted a door knock, however the occupants refused to answer the door. Later that day, investigators were able to collect additional evidence and as a result conducted a search warrant on the apartment.

The following items were seized during the search:
  • 993.2 grams of methamphetamine, worth approximately $60,000
  • $20,725 in Canadian currency
  • A Class 3B laser
  • Approximately 20 kg of an unknown substance, suspected to be a cutting agent
  • A sawed-off shotgun
  • A Browning .308 Winchester rifle
  • Numerous rounds of ammunition
  • Other items related to drug trafficking and fraud
Kamran Sattar, 44, of Calgary has been charged with 14 criminal offences including possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, obstruction of a peace officer, possession of a restricted/prohibited firearm with ammunition, careless storage of a firearm and breach of probation. Sattar was also charged with two offences under the Canadian Aviation Regulations and Aeronautics Act including projection of a directed bright light source at an aircraft and creating a hazard to safety.

“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a serious offence that we will investigate thoroughly,” says Staff Sergeant Jodi Gach of the CPS District 1 General Investigations Unit. “In this case, investigators came together very quickly to identify the offender, and as a result a significant amount of methamphetamine and firearms were seized by police.”




Laser seized Canada Calgary 2020-07-17 squashed

Above: Police photo of laser seized from Kamran Sattar. Below: Similar-looking lasers are available on eBay's U.S. site. The seller claims this laser is 5 milliwatts — the highest legal power for a laser to be sold as a pointer in the U.S.

Laser similar to seized Canada Calgary 2020-07-17 squashed

US: California man charged after aiming laser pointer at police helicopter during protest

From a June 10 2020 press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California:

Rudy Alvarez of Lemon Grove was charged in federal court today with knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at a San Diego Police helicopter as the aircraft flew over protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

According to a federal complaint, the incident occurred at a large demonstration that passed through the area of 500 University Avenue in Hillcrest on June 6 2020 at 8:30 p.m. Two officers from the San Diego Police Department’s Air Support Unit were monitoring the crowd in a marked San Diego Police Department helicopter. The officers reported that one of the demonstrators in the crowd was shining a laser at their aircraft that impeded their ability to safely operate the helicopter.


Click to read more...

Canada: Passenger plane pilot said to have eye injuries near Ottawa

On February 15 2020, the first officer of a Jazz Aviation De Havilland Dash-8 was 14 nautical miles from Ottawa International Airport when he was struck by a green laser beam aimed at the aircraft, which seats around 50 passengers. The captain requested medical assistance for the first officer. Upon landing, he was taken to a hospital for an evaluation.

He was said to have received injuries to his eyes; the nature and severity of the injuries were not reported.

Transport Canada opened an investigation into the incident.

From
AeroTime News Hub, official CADORS report. See also Canadian airline pilots' March 11 2020 reaction to this and other laser incidents.

US: Navy says China aimed invisible "military-grade" laser at Navy aircraft

The following is from a U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs press release, posted February 27 2020:

A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was lased by People’s Republic of China (PRC) navy destroyer 161 on Feb. 17 while flying in airspace above international waters approximately 380 miles west of Guam.

The P-8A was operating in international airspace in accordance with international rules and regulations. The PRC navy destroyer’s actions were unsafe and unprofessional.

Additionally, these acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea. CUES specifically addresses the use of lasers that could cause harm to personnel or damage to equipment. The destroyer’s actions were also inconsistent with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC regarding rules of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters.

The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A. Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.

The P-8A is assigned to VP-45, based out of Jacksonville, Florida, and is forward-deployed to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. The squadron conducts routine operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

U.S Navy aircraft routinely fly in the Philippine Sea and have done so for many years. U.S. Navy aircraft and ships will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.

U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest numbered fleet in the world, and with the help of 35 other maritime-nation allies and partners, the U.S. Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than a century, providing credible, ready forces to help preserve peace and prevent conflict.

Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATE February 28 2020: The day after the above press release, the U.S. Navy posted a photo on its Instagram account showing an island and an inset rave light show.



The text of the Navy's post read:

"#ICYMI [in case you missed it] The Chinese Navy recently pointed a laser in an unsafe and unprofessional manner at a #USNavy P-8A flying in airspace above international waters. These acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea."

The laser aimed at the P-8A aircraft was from a destroyer, not an island. The beams were not visible to human eyes and of course, they were not from a laser light show.

From The Drive. Thank you to Leon McLin for bringing this update to our attention.

Canada: Pilot and paramedic have unspecified eye injuries from laser aimed at medical aircraft

The following is from a February 27 2020 press release issued by the medical transportation company Ornge:

On February 15, 2020 at approximately 8:50 p.m., an Ornge aircraft was struck by a green laser in the area of Richmond and Sherbourne Street in the downtown Toronto area. The aircraft was on route back to base at Billy Bishop Airport after completing a call to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The aircraft returned to base without further incident. A report was filed with Toronto Police for investigation as well as a Directed Bright Light Illumination Report with Transport Canada.

As a result of the strike, an Ornge pilot and paramedic sustained an eye injury and required evaluation from a physician at a local Toronto hospital.

A
video of the strike was captured by the flight crew and provided to Toronto Police.



Pointing lasers at aircraft can:
  • Distract pilots
  • Cause temporary or permanent blindness
  • Create a glare in the cockpit affecting pilot vision
  • Cause further injury to Ornge patients
  • Distract or injure Ornge paramedic

Under the Aeronautics Act, if an individual is convicted of pointing a laser at an aircraft, they could face up to:
  • $100,000 in fines
  • 5 years in prison
  • Or both

Ornge encourages anyone who witnessed this incident to contact Toronto Police and Transport Canada. Anyone witnessing lasers being pointed towards aircraft can contact their local police or Transport Canada.

In 2019, Ornge had three reported laser strikes on our aircraft. In 2020, there have been five reported laser strikes on our aircraft.

For more information about laser strikes, feel free to visit this
Laser Strike Campaign page by Transport Canada.

From an Ornge press release. No further information on the status of the pilot and paramedic was available.

New Zealand: Student pilot illuminated twice by laser

An airplane piloted by a student was illuminated two times within five minutes by a green laser. The incident happened as the student pilot and instructor were flaying around Wellington Airport at 10:15 pm on February 25 2020.

At about the same time a day earlier, another small aircraft was targeted near the airport.

In both cases, the aircraft was able to land safely but a perpetrator was not found.

From 1 News

US: Young teens responsible for multiple laser strikes in California

During February 2020, pilots flying near Watsonville Municipal Airport reported laser beams being aimed at their aircraft. The Watsonville Police Department's Special Investigations unit found that a group of 12-to-15 year olds was responsible. Officers confiscated a "high powered" laser.

According to a February 25 2020 news report, "Police say the kids thought it was funny but after speaking with officers, they realized the potential damage they could've done and apologized. Watsonville police say they're now working with the families to get the kids involved in extra-curricular activities."

From KSBW.com

US: 52-year-old Georgia man jailed for aiming laser at police helicopter

While searching for a wanted subject, a Gwinnett County police helicopter was illuminated by a red laser February 13 2020. The crew interrupted their search and directed ground officers to a Loganville, Georgia man.

52-year-old Daniel Clair Maloney was arrested on two misdemeanors: laser use against an aircraft and obstruction. According to police, when asked by officers why he aimed the laser, Maloney said he was "just curious as to why a helicopter was in the air."


Daniel Clair Maloney


Maloney was released on a $3,700 bond.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

UK: Air ambulance helicopter aborts landing after laser pen exposure

A Wiltshire Air Ambulance helicopter on a February 20 2020 training flight aborted a landing after a laser attack. The pilot and two paramedics were attempting to land at a school in Chippenham, Wiltshire (85 miles west of London) when the illumination occurred.

A spokesperson for the air ambulance charity said "This was clearly very risky for the guys up there. Fortunately, the were not on an emergency mission but clearly it is a very serious incident."

Police were searching for the perpetrator.

From the Swindon Advertiser

US: Miami man acquitted of charges for aiming a laser at a police helicopter

On December 24 2018, an airliner reported being hit by a laser beam near Miami International Airport. A Miami police helicopter, sent to investigate, was also illuminated by a laser.

The helicopter crew spotted a man on a construction site with a laser, who left the construction parking field in a Ford Escape SUV. The driver was found to be Rolando Yague, 60.

He was charged with misuse of a laser pointer, a third-degree felony. Due to previous convictions, he could have received up to 10 years in prison.

At trial in mid-February 2020, Yague was acquitted of the charge. His lawyer told the Miami Herald that the area had many construction workers all wearing orange vests and that "There was absolutely no direct evidence. No video. No physical evidence. No laser pointer was ever found. Not a single person could identify Rolando Yague as having a laser in his possession at that field.”

Yague's dealings with the justice system are not over. Because of a 1988 prior conviction for armed robbery and attempted murder, Yague was on probation at the time of the laser incident. He was jailed for violating his probation by being arrested. He must convince a judge that, because he was acquitted of the charge, he did not violate his probation conditions.

From the Miami Herald

New Zealand: Lasers aimed at police helicopter the first day it is used

On February 17 2020, New Zealand Police began a five-week trial of using a helicopter in Christchurch. It was used three times the first day — and there were two incidents where lasers were aimed at the new helicopter.

A 44-year-old man was arrested and was charged with possession of a restricted weapon. (New Zealand has strict laws about laser registration and use.) His court date was set for February 25.

A police spokesperson said "The lasering of an aircraft is totally unacceptable behaviour and could cause serious harm to the crew of Eagle who are there for the protection and safety of all of Christchurch."

Hamish Walker, Member of Parliament from Clutha-Southland, issued a press release saying the incident is evidence that the current law is too weak:

“People continue to point lasers at helicopters and planes which demonstrates the current penalties in place are doing little to deter offenders.

“My High-Power Laser Pointer Offences and Penalties Bill will not only deter offenders but also raise awareness about an issue which poses a great risk to pilots and passengers.

“The Bill proposes to double the maximum fine to $4000 and double the term of imprisonment from three to six months. It will also make it an offence to have a high-power laser in possession in both public and private places.

“Pilots continue to ask for harsher penalties as incidents keep occurring but this is being completely ignored by this Government.

“Laser incidents have increased 130 per cent since 2014, with 717 recorded incidents from 2014-2018 showing how crucial my Members Bill will be if we want to deter offenders.

“It’s time the Government stopped putting politics before safety and supported my Bill.”


From Stuff.co.nz (first day usage and arrest of laser suspect), and National (Hamish Walker press release)

UK: Pilot said to have laser burn in eye

On February 4 2020, a 21-year-old student pilot suffered a suspected laser burn to his retina while flying a light aircraft on a training flight near Chipping Norton, about 75 miles northwest of London. The pilot was taken to a hospital for treatment.

According to the Oxford Mail, "the extent of his injury is unknown at this time [Feb. 19], although it is expected he will make a full recovery and return to training."

The next night, another training aircraft was hit by a laser in the same general area. No injury was reported.

An investigating Thames Valley Police officer said "The trainee pilot of the first aircraft suffered injuries to the back of his eye as a result of this attack and the injuries may result in him being unable to fulfill a career in aviation. The recklessness of such acts not only endangers the aircraft and all passengers on board, but also those on the ground, as attacks such as this seriously jeopardize safety."

Police were asking anyone with information to contact them.

From the Oxford Mail

UPDATE: According to a February 25 2020 article in the Evening Standard, "Due to the nature of the injuries he is currently unable to fly." The article also described an incident where a green laser was aimed at an RAF C-17 cargo plane near RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, on February 22 2020. This is roughly the same area as where the two training flights were illuminated on February 4 and 5.

US: Pilot has eye problems after laser aimed at California police aircraft

After several reports of lasers being aimed at military and civilian aircraft north of San Francisco, a suspect who repeatedly aimed at a California Highway Patrol (CHP) aircraft was arrested February 17 2020. It is being investigated as to whether the suspect was also responsible for the earlier laser incidents reported to Travis Air Force Base.

CHP pilot Jan Sears was directly illuminated by the blue laser beam. He later described the effect: "So it's pitch black and we're flying and all of a sudden it's like the sun just came out. It took me a minute to get my bearings…." Sears was able to control the aircraft by activating the autopilot. The CHP flight officer directed deputies on the ground to the suspect's location.

He was identified as Christopher Larsen, 33. He was charged with two state felonies for discharging a laser and aiming a laser at an aircraft, and may also be charged with a federal felony.


Christopher Larsen


Sears said Larsen was "using a laser that's illegal, much more expensive and highly powerful." He noted that "In a week we are lased once maybe twice; sometimes we catch them, sometimes we don't."


A laser similar in design to the one Larson was found with


Sears told NBC Bay Area that he was "still having residual effects with my left eye. I feel that something has happened." He said he had experience with green lasers before, but "this was a blue laser. It was the worst type to get involved with." Protective eyewear was on board, but it was intended to reduce green light, not blue.

From CBS San Francisco Bay Area, GoodDay Sacramento, KSRO and NBC Bay Area

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Most lasing incidents involve green light, so glasses that reduce the intensity of green light can be useful. Glasses are available which reduce green and blue — and even green, blue and red. However, the more wavelengths of light that the glasses attenuate, the more overall light is also dimmed. Plus this can make it more difficult to differentiate colors on the aircraft instrument panel. More information is on the page about laser glare protection eyewear.

US: Laser strikes near Savannah airport lead FBI, county to offer $2500 reward

On January 29 2020, the FBI and the Effingham County (Georgia) Sheriff's Office are offering a $2,500 reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect(s).

This came as a result of laser strikes on airplanes approaching Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. Since November 2019 there were three illuminations from an area of Effingham County, 10-15 miles northwest of Savannah.

The county sheriff said that additional laser strikes had occurred prior to November, and the general area of the strikes was recently identified.

Anyone with information can call the Effingham County Sheriff's Office at 912-754-3449.

From WJCL.com

UPDATE November 11 2020: A 48-year-old from Rincon Georgia was indicted for aiming a laser pointer at aircraft on three separate occasions from November 2019 to January 2020. Details are below in a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia.
Click to read more...

UK: London man, 55, aims laser at helicopter over noise spoiling his audiobook

A 55-year-old northwest London man aimed a blue laser beam at a police helicopter after the noise irritated him while listening to an audiobook.

On July 18 2019, the helicopter was searching near Stephen Reid's home when the man pointed the laser at it. His location was identified, and Reid threw the laser into his back yard when illuminated by the helicopter spotlight.

Officers on the ground had to threaten to force their way into Reid's home before he opened the door. A blue and a green laser pen were found by a canine unit. Reid admitted the lasers were his.

In court in January 2020, Reid's attorney said Reid was "plagued by police helicopters searching for individuals…. Something got into his head and he utilized this laser pen to cause what could have been a catastrophe."

On January 29 2020, the judge gave Reid a four-month sentence suspended for 18 months, plus he had to complete a 60-day rehabilitation program.

The judge said "Any distraction and that helicopter is crashing into an urban area with devastating consequences. You were irritated, frustrated and annoyed at what they were doing interrupting your audiobook and it’s clear you were not thinking about the consequences of your behaviour. By the finest margin I can imagine I can suspend this sentence. You’ve caught me on a good day."

From Metro.co.uk

US: Florida man shot with taser after aiming laser at aircraft and police helicopter

In a widely publicized incident, a man who aimed a laser at aircraft near a Florida airport was tased by officers sent to contact him. One pilot said the laser light went directly into his eyes, causing temporary blindness and lingering blurred vision. The pilot went to a local medical center and was discharged.

On January 22 2020, a man in an industrial area aimed a green laser pointer at aircraft near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, including a United Airbus A320 and Cessna Skyhawk planes that were practicing takeoffs and landings. Most reports said four aircraft were targeted, although airport police quoted in one story said only two airplanes were struck. The same story indicated it was the Cessna student pilot who reported eyesight problems.

A Manatee County Sheriff's Office helicopter was sent to investigate. The man aimed his laser at the helicopter as well as throwing objects towards it. The crew was able to pinpoint his location, about a quarter mile from the runway approach.

When deputies arrived on the scene, they found 41-year-old Charlie James Chapman Jr. He was on a forklift, and made a "striking motion" with a hammer towards the officers. They used a Taser two times to subdue Chapman. A laser pointer was found in his pants pocket. He was taken to a hospital, and later to jail.


Charlie James Chapman Jr.


Chapman was charged with aggravated assault on an officer, pointing a laser at a pilot with injury, pointing a laser at a pilot without injury and resisting without violence.

The sheriff's office released video from the helicopter:



Some stills from the video:


The laser is aimed towards the helicopter.


An almost direct hit on the camera lens.


The man throws a small object (arrow) towards the helicopter — not reaching it, of course. The forklift can be seen on the right.


In an infrared view, officers (white shapes) move in to confront the perpetrator.


Chapman was apprehended at 8224 25th Court East in Sarasota, which is the worksite of Vulcan Materials Co., a ready-mix concrete supplier according to Google Maps.

From the Manatee County Sheriff's Office press release, the Orlando Sentinel via MSN, WRCBTV.com, ABC13.com, the Washington Post, WCTV, USA Today, and many other news sources and services. Thanks to Greg Makhov, Jack Dunn and Donna Colona for also bringing this to our attention.

US: Laser case dropped against perpetrator with "intellectual disability"

Charges were dropped January 22 2020 against a West Columbus (Ohio) man who aimed a green laser at local and state police helicopters on four days in July 2019.

When his home was pinpointed, officers went to the location. James M. Rhodes, 37, admitted pointing the laser at the aircraft.

He was indicted on felony charges of interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser.

After evaluation, a psychologist said Rhodes was unable to assist his attorney due to a "mild intellectual disability." Treatment would not help his condition, which was not severe enough to warrant institutionalization.

Based on the evaluation, the charges were dismissed.

From the Columbus Dispatch

US: Colorado first responders encounter lasers nearly every night

The program director for Flight for Life emergency medical helicopters in Colorado says "We are being tagged by lasers on virtually every leg of a flight after dark." Kathleen Mayer made the comments in a January 20 2020 interview with CBS4 in Denver.

She said laser illuminations can cause pilots to land prematurely, and if they have temporary vision problems, they cannot fly.

Mayer also said "We see an uptick right after the holidays. I think people get the lasers for Christmas gifts and want to try them out, but they are absolutely picking the wrong target when they hit an aircraft."

According to Mayer, Flight for Life made six reports to the FBI in December, regarding laser interference.

From CBS4 Denver

UK: Police helicopter under "sustained attack" by laser pen

National Police Air Service reported that on December 21 2019, a crew in Exeter "came under sustained attack by a laser causing the pilot to turn away and don protective equipment. It took the crew less than a minute to identify the offender's location."

A spokesperson said the crew was "safe" and the operation involved the "apprehension of violent offenders."

It was not clear if the "violent offenders" referenced were the ones using the laser, or if the offenders were the initial target of the helicopter (prior to the laser attack).

Devon Live reported there were 50 laser attacks on NPAS crews in 2018.

From Devon Live

Chile: Protesters appear to bring down a drone with laser pointers

A YouTube video posted shows a protest in Chile where dozens of laser pointers are aimed at a drone. The aircraft appears to waver, then to fall from the sky.



It is not known if the pointers damaged the drone's camera, rendering it unflyable, or if the operator could still fly the drone but decided to land it.

A video posted by Perseus999 includes this commentary from him or her:

This is the moment a police drones is being forced to crash and land by protesters in Chile using simple pointer lasers to blind the drone.

These protesters didn't use any physical or gun force to bring the drone down. Instead, they used another form of technology: lasers. A lot of bright green laser beams were pointed in unison at the drone, which can be seen moving erratically, before quickly falling down to Earth.

A few theories about how the drone was brought down by the lasers are floating around many social media. Some believe the lasers are powerful enough to melt the plastic on the drone if it is a cheap drone. Some others believe the lasers' lights would blind the drone operator's vision through the camera, and the drone would go into autopilot mode and land as a failsafe. Others think that with that many lasers pointing at the drone, it would overheat and malfunction. Speculations that between 40 to 50 lasers were being pointed at the drone have circulated online, and the video certainly demonstrates that these estimates may be true. If that is the case, that's certainly enough lasers to blind the drone's camera lens.

Videos found from @Emily_Lykos | @Carabdechile


COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM: The overheating theories are probably incorrect. Cameras are known to be sensitive to laser light — often much more sensitive than human eyes. So the camera sensor could be damaged, or even if not damaged, causing glare making it difficult or impossible to safely fly.

Via a YouTube search for "Drone with laser pointer"

Chile: Protesters aim many beams at police helicopter

A YouTube video taken from a police helicopter shows protesters aiming dozens of lasers at the aircraft:



A YouTube video which may have the same footage from a commercial TV station, is here.



A similar situation occurred in Egypt in July 2013, with a helicopter targeted by dozens of beams. A detailed discussion of this incident is here.

Thanks to MVC of Chile who brought the commercial footage to our attention.

US: Washington State man aims new laser at helicopter to see how far it would go

A Ferndale, Washington man with a newly purchased laser was located after he aimed it at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter on September 10 2019.

He told officers that he aimed the green laser light at the aircraft to see how far it would reach. He said he did not know how serious a hazard the laser was to aircraft.

Officers confiscated the laser, which had been purchased online. A photo shows it to be a "Laser 303" which is a certain type of handheld laser form factor.


Photo by the Ferndale Police Department


Police forwarded the case for consideration of federal charges. The man was not identified.

From the Bellingham Herald and My Ferndale News

Northern Ireleand: Laser pen aimed at police helicopter during youth disorder

During a disturbance of about 30-40 youths in Londonderry on August 12 2019, a laser pen was aimed at a Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter. A PSNI spokesperson said the light was "endangering both the crew and local residents."

During the disorder, young teens threw dozens of petrol bombs, paint bombs, bricks and bottles at police patrols, and burned a barricade. It was the third night of the incidents when the PSNI helicopter was targeted.

From ITV News, Derry Journal

UK: Passenger planes escorted into airport by police helicopter after laser illuminations

Passenger airplanes were escorted by a police helicopter into Leeds Bradford Airport early in the morning of August 14 2019, to watch for laser beams which had earlier been sighted.

At 11:30 pm on August 13 Jet2 flight LS274, a Boeing 737-36N arriving from Alicante, reported seeing a laser said to be four miles from the runway. At 12:48 am on August 14 Jet2 flight LS250, a Boeing 737-8K2 arriving from Fuerteventura, reported a laser at a location 5 1/2 miles from the runway.

It is not known if the two laser beams came from one site which was judged to be at different distances, from a single source which moved from one location to another, or from two independent sources.

After West Yorkshire Police were notified, a National Police Air Service helicopter was dispatched to escort incoming flights. No further laser incidents were reported.

Ward cauncillor Graham Latty said "It’s a dreadful risk trying to bring a plane down, especially as Leeds-Bradford is in a domestic setting, with houses on three sides. People who would do that clearly don’t know what they’re doing. and as a councillor, and a human being, I find it ridiculous and disgusting…. It just shows, quite frankly, the depths people will go to. They haven’t got any brains."

A UK Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said: “Anyone convicted of shining a laser at an aircraft could face a significant fine or even prison. We strongly urge anyone who sees lasers being used in the vicinity of an airport to contact the police immediately.”

From the Yorkshire Evening Post, Examiner Live and Wharfdale Observer. Flight data from Flightradar24.

US: 3 men point blue laser at helicopter; 1 arrested

Three men pointed a blue laser at a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter, at about 1 am on July 19 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. One of the men was located by the San Antonio Police Department; the other two men ran off.

From Fox San Antonio