Coast Guard jet crewmember hospitalized by laser pointer

America's Heartland Coast Guard NewsCORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The crew of a Coast Guard Guardian jet was targeted by a laser while flying off Portland, Texas, during a critical phase on an instrument approach into Corpus Christi International Airport, Monday.

“Whether this happened to our Coast Guard aircraft flying on a search and rescue mission, a student Navy pilot just learning to fly, or an air liner carrying a plane full of passengers, the public needs to be aware of the dangers associated with pointing a laser at any aircraft,” says Lt. Philip Thisse, the aircraft commander of the Falcon jet that was lased. “The laser directly hit one of our crewmembers while conducting an instrument approach and it filled the cockpit with a blinding light. We had to conduct an emergency landing and one of our crew members was sent to the Bay Area Emergency Room. Either malicious or just an irresponsible act, lasing an aircraft poses a significant hazard to the lives of aircrew and impacts our ability to respond to people in distress.”

In this incident, the crewmember suffered temporary vision impairment and a full recovery is expected.

Besides risking the lives of aircrew and passengers, lasing aircraft is a Federal offense with severe penalties. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “On Feb. 14, 2012, President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which modernizes the nation’s aviation system. Section 311 of the Act adds a new provision (18 U.S.C. 39A) to the Criminal Code. Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 39A establishes a new criminal offense for aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft. The crime is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years’ imprisonment. The statute was enacted in response to a growing number of incidents of pilots being distracted or even temporarily blinded by laser beams.”

Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi has had three reported lasing incidents since June.

According to Lt. Vince Gomes, flight safety officer of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, the Navy has had two local lasing incidents since June as well.

The full public law can be found here on the FAA’s website.

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