A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew has been forced to land after a laser made contact with their aircraft on Oct. 23.
The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew was flying about two miles offshore of Oahu, Hawaii, when it was targeted by an individual with a laser pointer. The Coast Guard said a flight mechanic and rescue swimmer were affected. The crew returned to Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, where they were required to remain off duty for a minimum of 24 hours. The crewmembers must have their eyes dilated and be cleared by a doctor before flying again.
A situation like this unnecessarily reduces available Coast Guard personnel for search and rescue missions, which could mean the difference between life and death. Individuals need to remember that even though it seems like a laser stops after a certain point, the light is continuous through the air and can cause glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision to air and boat crews.
An act signed into law on Feb. 14, 2012, makes it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft or their flight path. The Federal Aviation Administration reports that laser incidents involving aircraft increased by 902 percent from 2005 to 2011, with an average of 10 times a night in 2011.
For more on this matter, see Coast Guard SAR pilots hit by green lasers, in our Nov/Dec 2012 issue.