Authorities: Laser Pointers Can Blind Pilots, Cause Disaster

Louisville Metro Police and the FBI are warning people of the consequences of aiming laser pointers at aircraft.

Officials say a series of recent local incidents, often intended as pranks, has raised new concerns about the risks to commercial and police aircraft.

Officer Carey Hirtzell was circling an LMPD helicopter above an investigation scene last weekend when someone pointed a green laser at the aircraft.

He says the thin laser light gets much broader when aimed at the sky, and can cause a pilot to become disoriented.

“What’s called flash blindness. It’s basically like if you’re in a darkened room and somebody takes a flash photography picture of you. That flash is what you see and you actually have like the after-image affect of whatever you were looking at at the time,” Hirtzell said.

A University of Louisville student is charged with wanton endangerment in connection with that incident.

The FBI says a new law is on the books that makes it a federal crime to point a laser at aircraft. It carries penalties of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Rick Howlett

Rick Howlett is WFPL's Broadcast Managing Editor and also produces feature and general assignment radio stories.

@rickhowlett

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