March 25, 2015 - NASHVILLE, TN (WKRN) – Nashville pilots are warning the public not to point laser pointers at planes or other aircraft because the results could be catastrophic.
When a laser pointer on the ground is pointed at a pilot, the laser spreads through the cockpit and can blind the pilot.
“It definitely interferes with the regular duties of the flight crew so they would have to stop what they are doing, figure out a way to cover up the light, if they can, and figure out how to fix it.” LifeFlight Airplane Division Lead Pilot Samuel Sevier explained.
He continued, “Interrupting a flight crew during a critical phase of flight like taking off and landing could have a large impact on the ground.”
Pilots said laser pointer incidents often occur during take-off or landing because the aircraft is closer to the ground.
News 2 has so far this year there have been eight incidents reported by pilots connected to laser pointers and planes.
The Federal Aviation Administration reported there were 36 incidents in 2014.
Nationwide there are thousands of incidents reported to the FAA. The agency has been working to educate the public about the danger of pointing a laser pointer at aircraft.
Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense and can lead to felony state charges.
In 2011, three Donelson teens were arrested and charged with felony reckless endangerment after pointing a laser at a LifeFlight helicopter and other commercial jets landing at the Nashville International Airport.
“Not being able to see your instrumentation or outside could impact the pilot by rendering him useless on the flight deck,” Sevier said. “Time is critical for us whether we are operating during the golden hour or in operating general.”
The lasers can also cause long term damage to the eyes of pilots.
A New York man is facing several felony charges after police said he pointed a laser at an Air Canada flight, two Delta shuttles and an American Airlines flight that were attempting to land at La Guardia.
Police said he then later pointed the laser at New York City Police helicopters as they searched for the origin of the laser pointer involving the other flights.
Pilots aboard the Air Canada flight had to be treated for eye injuries once they landed in Toronto.
Frank Egan. 36, is charged with reckless endangerment, assault on a police officer and other charges.