Coast Guard aircraft hit with laser, endangering aircrew

U.S. Coast Guard Press Release | December 2, 2015

Estimated reading time 1 minute, 37 seconds.

The Coast Guard is warning the public that pointing handheld lasers at Coast Guard aircrews is dangerous and illegal.

On Dec. 1 at 8:30 p.m., a Coast Guard MH-65 helicopter with Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, was hit with a laser while flying in the vicinity of Lake Okeechobee, Florida.

Crewmembers aboard the aircraft reported the laser came from land.

After a medical evaluation, there were no reported injuries associated with the incident.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime and a felony offense under Title 18, United States Code, Section 39A. If found guilty, offenders could be fined up to $250,000 and sentenced to five years in prison.

“Lasers are extremely dangerous and can impede our ability to safely control the aircraft,” said Lcdr. Larry Santos, a pilot with Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.

Pilots affected by laser strikes regularly report temporary effects in vision, including: afterimage, flash blindness and temporary loss of night vision.  

In some cases, laser strike can result in permanent damage to a person’s eyesight.
 If a crewmember is lased it severely compromises his ability to effectively response and safely operate the aircraft, ultimately endangering the safety and lives of crewmembers aboard and the general public.

Anyone witnessing this crime is strongly encouraged to report it to local law enforcement. 

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