Hawaii seeing more aircraft laser incidents

Hawaii seeing more aircraft laser incidents
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii is seeing more incidents involving lasers hitting aircraft.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were 121 cases in 2015, up from 73 the year before.

And for the first three months of this year, there are 38 incidents or "lasings," which puts the state on pace to exceed last year's totals.

A lasing occurs when someone directs their laser toward an aircraft, which can disorient a pilot or worse.

"It's a very bright light, almost like looking at the sun. And the pilots can be temporarily blinded. Or even worse, they can have permanent injury to their eyes," said local aviation historian Peter Forman.

"It's a horrible idea. It can cause an aircraft accident."

In one well-publicized case, a green laser struck a Coast Guard helicopter in January, forcing it to change its flight plans.

The helicopter was searching for 12 Marines missing after two helicopters collided off the North Shore.

"That's horrible because if that crew is going to pull out of the effort, that could mean the difference between life or death," Forman said.

Part of the reason for the increase is lasers have become so readily available these days and inexpensive. A laser at Office Depot goes for anywhere between $20 and $40. And they're strong enough to reach more than 650 feet.

"I think it's most of the time people don't realize how much damage it is they want to tell their friends, 'hey watch this,'" said Forman.

It's a federal crime to point a laser at an aircraft. Anyone caught doing that could face prison time or fines of up to $30,000. But it's tough to catch someone in the act and authorities say they don't know of any arrests here.

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