Laser aimed at Coast Guard airplane prompts investigation

Hawaii-Pacific Coast Guard NewsHONOLULU ­– A Coast Guard aircraft crew was targeted by an individual with a laser pointer while flying into Kalaeloa Airport on Oahu, late Tuesday night.

The lased HC-130 Hercules airplane crew was returning to Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point from a Department of Defense support mission when the incident occurred. Three crewmembers observed the laser sweeping the aircraft, but no one was directly affected.

“This is the third lasing incident within the last five months at our unit. It is absolutely critical that the public be made aware of the seriousness of lasing an aircraft,” said Lt. Casey Corpe, Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point public affairs officer. “Not only is it a federal offense that carries heavy fines and possible jail time, but it puts our pilots and aircrew in unnecessary danger and seriously delays response times during rescue missions, risking the lives of the people that need help the most.”

The Coast Guard is working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Honolulu Police Department to investigate the incident.

Laser pointers can cause glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision, all causing a great danger to the crew. If any aircrew member’s vision is compromised during a flight, Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the aircraft must abort their mission. If an aircrew member is lased it severely compromises their ability to fly the aircraft and complete the mission safely. In order to ensure their health, aircrew members are taken off flight duty until cleared by a flight surgeon before flying again. This hinders the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to people in distress, training, and homeland security missions.

It is a federal crime, as well as violation of most states’ laws to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. If an individual is caught purposefully lasing an aircraft, punishment ranges from being arrested or having to pay a civil penalty of $11,000 for a single offence, to more than $30,000 if the individual has multiple offences. People witnessing this crime are strongly encouraged to immediately call 911 to report the incident. The FAA tracks laser incidents by city, state and nationality and initiated about 95 civil penalty cases in 2011 nationwide.

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