Aviation News

July 16, 2012

JetBlue Pilot Injured by Laser Over Long Island

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Green laser shining on an aircraft. (Photo by Dept of Transportation)

The pilot of a JetBlue flight suffered a minor eye injury Sunday night when a green laser shone through the plane’s windshield, according to the FAA.

JetBlue Flight 657, an Embraer E-190 (N307JB) flying to New York-JFK from Syracuse when the incident occurred near Islip, NY, about 35 miles east of its destination.

The plane went on to land without incident on JFK’s Runway 22L about 10 minutes later. There were no other injuries reported.

An FAA preliminary incident report described the pilot’s injury as minor but did not expound on details. It was not known if the injured pilot was in command of the aircraft at the time.

A JetBlue spokesperson confirmed to NYCAviation that an incident occurred, but did not have any additional details, saying only that it is “currently a matter of investigation.”

In addition to causing temporary vision impairment which, for obvious reasons, is especially dangerous to a person operating an aircraft, lasers can cause permanent damage to sight, including blind spots in their field of vision.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft became a federal crime in 2011, with violators subject to an $11,000 fine. According to FAA statistics analyzed by LaserPointerSafety.com, 1,519 laser vs. aircraft incidents were reported in 2012 through June 28, which would put the nation on pace for a 2.1 percent increase for the year over 2011.

Laser pointers are also subject to state laws in some cases. A Massachusetts man was sentenced to three years in prison in 2011 for shining a green laser at a Massachusetts State Police helicopter in 2007.

[h/t Aviation Herald]

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  • Can’t you wear special glasses to protect your eyes like something with a mirror to deflect the laser

    • COMALite J

      Laser glasses are tuned to the specific frequencies of the various colors of lasers. Each laser color is one very specific frequency. Laser glasses block that specific frequency, or multiple such frequencies if designed to protect against multiple colors of lasers.

  • COMALite J

    It should be noted that with all the hoopla over the Aurora shooting, and many gun owners fantasizing about if they’d been there and how they could’ve taken Holmes out without adding to the chaos (despite his wearing a flack jacket and the room being dark and tear gas filling the place, not to mentioned panicked innocents who’d likely be running into your line of fire), the one thing that might’ve worked (if someone had actually had one with him or her [unlikely since the only type of person who might’ve had reason to have one on him would’ve been some business executive who’d gone straight to the midnight showing after a very late night board meeting in which he was doing a PowerPoint presentation or some such, or perhaps someone who’d either come from or was planning on going to an astronomical star party right before or after the movie]) would’ve been a (preferably green) laser pointer aimed right into Holmes’s gas mask eyeholes.

    The smoke from the tear gas would even aid in aiming (assuming you could manage a steady aim while coughing up a lung), forming a nice visible beam in the dim theater. His dark-adapted dilated-pupil eyes would’ve been extra vulnerable, and any flaws in the glass of the eyeholes would make the whole thing light up super bright from his PoV, right in front of his eyes, completely blocking his vision. Shutting his eyes wouldn’t help much, since the light is bright enough to shine right through even squinched-shut eyelids, and still be bright enough to be painful and at least temporarily damaging. His reflex would’ve been to cover his eyes with his hands or an arm — an arm which could no longer effectively wield a weapon. At the very least, he’d have to turn his head away. This could aid someone else near him in tackling him without throwing his own life away.