WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (WTNH) — How much damage can a little laser pointer do if aimed at an airplane? As we began researching the story and talking to pilots, we learned it happened nearly 30 times in Connecticut this year alone, and the effects can be devastating.
Dr. Michael Teiger is a pilot and says at night in the cockpit, a laser strike is totally blinding, like bright flash bulbs going off in the dark.
“Pilots that I have talked to that have had actual laser exposures, get a huge flash of light, and even though it seems like a small beam, the effect is very big,” said Teiger.
There have been 20 laser strikes on U.S. aircrafts in the past 24 hours, 5,000 this year alone nationwide, and in New England, 118 reported by police in the last 10 months:
- 37 of Massachusetts’ 55 reports occurred at Logan International Airport.
- 11 of Connecticut’s 29 reports occurred at Bradley International Airport.
- 23 of Rhode Island’s 23 reports occurred at T. F. Green Airport.
- 8 of Maine’s 11 reports occurred at Portland International Jetport.
Thursday, police arrested a person in New York for shining a laser at a news helicopter. Teiger says it’s easier to track down a laser pointer than you think.
“If you are found to have interfered with aviation safety, the penalties are severe. This is jail time. This is a serious offense,” said Teiger. “The last thing you should do is be blinded in the critical stages of flight. Coming down for a landing is when you need your instruments, especially at nighttime. This is an important time, you can’t have temporary blindness, even if it’s for a few seconds.”
So far, the FAA said they have never linked a plane crash to the blinding of a pilot with a laser, but they said it can have detrimental effects.