Laser pointer user attempts to distract Coast Guard helicopter after late night search

11th Coast Guard District NewsMCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. – A Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Humboldt Bay was illuminated with a laser last week following a late night search during a distress call south of the Humboldt Bay entrance. Fortunately, the pilot at the controls was not affected by the laser and the aircraft remained under control.

At approximately 10:30 p.m. last Saturday, the crew in the Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin helicopter was returning from a search and rescue case when a bright focused green light swept through the cockpit multiple times.

“Pointing lasers at aircraft jeopardizes the safety of the Coast Guard and commercial airliners aircrew,” said Capt. Salvatore Palmeri, commanding officer Air Station Humboldt Bay. “Educating the public on how detrimental lasers can be to our aircrews is key.”

The number of reported cases of aircraft being hit with lasers has increased substantially over the past few years. While it may not sound serious, this action is very dangerous with both short and long term affects. It can cause immediate disorientation and temporarily blindness, similar to someone’s photo is taken with a bright flash. In the long term, it may contribute to severe eye damage.

Shining a laser at an aircraft is illegal. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations prohibit the disruption of aviation activity by any person on the ground or in the air. Law enforcement officials are putting forth stronger efforts to eliminate these incidents, and recent violators have received up to three years in prison.

Last summer, laser pointers forced two Coast Guard helicopters to land in Los Angeles International Airport after being flashed during a patrol overflight over a popular beach area and near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The pilots were temporarily grounded as doctors checked their eyesight.

The Coast Guard emphasizes how serious this issue is and asks for help from the public to protect those who fly, so they can continue to help mariners in need. Anyone who observes an aircraft being illuminated with a laser is requested to report it to the local law enforcement.

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