COAST GUARD AIR STATION BARBERS POINT, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft on approach into Kalaeloa Airfield was targeted by a laser pointer on Tuesday night, the third lasing-related incident on Coast Guard aircraft since October.
The incident happened at approximately 9:08 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a Coast Guard spokesperson.
"Both myself and the aircraft commander noticed a brief illumination green in color in the cockpit. Then observed, undoubtedly, a green laser tracking our position," said Lt. Casey Corpe, who was piloting the aircraft.
"Because it was nighttime and a little bit hazy, it was extremely easy to track the beam to its source, we were able to make a report to the control tower here," said Corpe, who believes the laser was being pointed from the area known as "Electric Beach" near the Kahe Power Plant.
There were eight people on board the aircraft at the time at the time of the incident. None of the individuals were actually hit by the laser, which made three or four passes of the aircraft before vanishing.
The frequency of laser pointer incidents has the Coast Guard concerned, because it could endanger flight crews and also delay in rescue missions.
"We want to go out after people's parents, sons, daughters, whoever might be out there lost at sea. We want to be able to respond to that," said Capt. Timothy Gilbride, commander of the Coast Guard in Hawaii. "When this kind of situation happens, we're in a situation where we'd have to delay that."
Under Coast Guard guidelines, a flight crew must immediately return to base if they have had a laser pointer aimed at them. According to a flight surgeon, the laser could cause flash blindness and affect the night vision of the crew. In this case, the aircraft was on final approach to Kalaeloa Airport. But officials said it could have caused a delay if the plane was just departing on a rescue mission.
"That, to me, is an irresponsible position to be in," said Gilbride. "I want to be in there, but when we get lased, I'm in a position where I have to delay that response to our primary mission, which taking care of the American public."
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, there are new, stiffer penalties if someone is caught aiming a laser pointer at any aircraft. The maximum penalty is now five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.