A Coast Guard aircraft crew was targeted by an individual with a laser pointer while flying into Kahului Airport on Maui Monday night, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The lased HC-130H Hercules aircraft crew was conducting training at the time of the incident. The lasing forced the crew to return to Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, on Oahu. The crew’s copilot was the only one affected, compromising his ability to fly the aircraft.
"Whether this was a malicious, or just irresponsible act, it is critical that the public be made aware of the seriousness of lasing an aircraft," said Lt. Casey Corpe, Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point public affairs officer. "Not only does it risk the health of the aircrew, it can seriously delay response times during rescue missions, risking the lives of the people that need help the most."
Laser pointers can cause glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision, which poses a danger to the crew. If any aircrew member’s vision is compromised during a flight, Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the aircraft must abort their mission. This hinders the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to people in distress, conduct training, and other essential missions.
Additionally, aircrew members are taken off flight duty until cleared by a flight surgeon before flying again.
According to a Food and Drug Administration Consumer Safety Alert, overpowered green laser pointers may have been modified to emit more radiation than originally intended. These overpowered green laser pointers are a serious concern because they can cause permanent eye damage. The FDA regulates the manufacture of laser products.
It is a federal crime, as well as violation of most states' laws, to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. People witnessing this crime are strongly encouraged to call 911 immediately to report the incident.