Imagine you are offshore in a boat that is taking on water. You engine won’t start and your batteries are dead so the bilge pumps are not working. You are going down.
You make an urgent MayDay call for help and the U.S. Coast Guard acknowleges your situation. Within a few minutes you see a Coast Guard helicopter approaching toward your location. Then, all of a sudden, the helicopter turns and goes the other direction. What could be happening?
The Coast Guard would like to remind people about the dangers of pointing lasers into the sky. Even small laser pointers sold to the general public, pointed at an aircraft, can have serious and disastrous effects on pilots’ vision.
There have been 10 reported incidents of aircraft being targeted by lasers between Cape May, N.J., and Ocean City, N.J., this summer, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Many of these incidents involved Coast Guard aircraft performing search and rescue and training operations. Click the photo to see the animation of how the runway disappears, then click the back button to return.
This is a significant risk to flight safety, especially for helicopters working low altitudes and aircraft taking off or landing. If any aircrew member’s vision is compromised during a flight Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the aircraft must abort their mission. Laser pointers can cause the pilot to see a glare, afterimage, have flash blindness, or can even cause temporary loss of night vision.
Additionally, aircrew members are taken off flight duty for a minimum of 24 hours and must have their eyes dilated and be cleared by a doctor before flying again. This temporary loss of flight crews has the potential to significantly affect the unit’s abilities to conduct search and rescue, training and homeland security missions.
The Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacture of laser products and according to an FDA Consumer Safety Alert, overpowered green laser pointers may have been modified to emit more radiation than originally intended. These overpowered green laser pointers are a serious concern because they can cause permanent eye damage.
New Jersey State Law prohibits the interference with transportation vehicles including autos, aircraft, or boats. In addition, federal charges can be brought against the convicted person and can carry a sentence up to 20 years in prison in addition to fines.
Members of the public who witness someone committing this crime are strongly encouraged to immediately call 911 to report the incident.