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US: UPDATED - JetBlue pilots manage to land after Palm Beach Fl. laser in cockpit

A JetBlue airliner had a “blinding” laser beamed into the cockpit on December 9 2013, and “managed to land safely” according to news reports based on statements from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office. ABC News said it was “a potential disaster averted.”

The incident happened at about 7 pm, while JetBlue flight 521 was on approach to Palm Beach International Airport. Information from the sheriff’s office said that at 1,700 feet the pilot saw a very bright, constant green laser enter the windscreen. He believed he was intentionally tracked. He had to shield his eyes to continue trying to land the plane.

The sheriff’s office said “Thankfully they were able to land the jet safely.” The beam was thought to be from the northeast corner of two roads, but the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit did not come up with anything.
This has been an “ongoing problem” at PBIA, according to the sheriff’s office. They said this is the third time since Nov. 29 that someone has aimed a laser at an airplane, at PBIA. The FAA said there have been 3434 laser incidents in the U.S. from Jan. 1 to Nov. 15 2013. Two-hundred seventy nine occurred in Florida, and 36 of those were in the Palm Beach and Boca Raton area.

From NBC News and the Palm Beach Post. Thanks to a number of people for bringing this to our attention: Tony Zmorenski, Walt Meador and Greg Makhov.

UPDATED, December 11, 2013: One pilot’s doctor said the aviator is experiencing migraines and “short-term damage” and has been forced to take the week off. Dr. Marc Brockman of the Florida Vision Institute said there will not be long-term damage. He noted that “If this were an industrial laser, it only takes a split second [to do damage]. The doctor also said the laser perpetrator’s aim does not have to be accurate because the eye is naturally drawn to bright lights. From WPTV.com

UPDATED, December 12 2013: A local man called police and said he may have inadvertently lased the JetBlue aircraft while playing with his dog. He told TV news that he did not know of the laser’s potential effects on pilots, and he would not do it again. From WPTV.com and WFLX.com