San Francisco News

Pointing lasers at aircraft a crime, not a joke

Monday, February 04, 2013

Sunday night, Sky7 HD captured a crime on camera that someone may have thought was a joke, but it's a danger to pilots that could land you in jail.

Flying over San Francisco's Mission District after the Super Bowl, Sky7 HD saw a green laser lighting up the night sky and pointed straight at the cockpit. The apparent culprits were two men -- one of them wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey and they were pointing at other helicopters too.

He was kind of spotting at us and then laughing with his friends, spotting at us again, eventually we called CHP out and they were able to witness that as well," helicopter pilot Craig Piowaty said.

It's the second time in two weeks this has happened. Sky7 HD pilot Solomon Loop was flying over Oakland when someone pointed a red laser at the cockpit on Jan. 21.

"The guy was standing on his front porch; his face was really obvious and he kept doing it over and over again," Loop said. "So we were able to actually see him and direct the police to pick him up."

Officers say they arrested the man with the laser still in his pocket and say he may have been using it to try to shoo the helicopters away. He could face jail time and an $11,000 fine.

"You might think it's funny, you might think it's fun, but it's extremely dangerous," Loop said.

It doesn't take a big, expensive laser to cause havoc in the skies. Even a little $10 dollar laser from an electronics or pet store can be blinding when it's pointed directly at the cockpit.

FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor says lasers have led to missed landing approaches, pilots having to give up control to a co-pilot and sometimes worse.

"There also have been cases where pilots have reported ongoing vision problems following a laser strike," he said.

The FAA has asked pilots to report all laser strikes to air traffic control so police can swoop in.

"If our helicopter's in the air and we get a visual of somebody doing this, it only takes a minute or two for a police cruiser to show up at their doorstep," California Highway Patrol Ofc. Mike Ferguson said.

Authorities credit those arrests with a drop in the number of laser strikes, though the Bay Area still saw nearly 100 last year.

Pilots can only make a plea for common sense:

"You're endangering other people's lives; not just the pilot and the crew, but also people on the ground, so please don't do it," Loop said.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
mission district, crime, san francisco news, jonathan bloom
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