Skip to main content

'Lasing' planes harmful— and hurts you more than the pilot

Aug 30, 2017 02:30PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Shining lasers at aircraft is punishable by a $25,000 fine and up to five years in federal prison. (Robert Williams/courtesy)

By Mariden Williams | mariden.w@mycityjournals.com

On the night of July 11, a National Guard helicopter circled Herriman for about 15 minutes, much to the annoyance of city residents. Soon messages appeared in neighborhood Facebook groups: “What’s up with the hovering helicopter?” 

More concerning than these initial complaints were the replies that followed, some offering such sage advice as, “Next time, take your laser pen out and shine it at them. They stop circling when you do that.”

“No. Don’t do that,” said Chief Warrant Officer Robert Williams in an interview. He was one of the pilots of the helicopter in question. “That would be breaking federal law, and breaking federal law is bad.”

“Lasing” an aircraft, as the practice is known, is a felony punishable by fines of up to $25,000 and up to five years federal prison time. The FBI even offers a $10,000 bounty in exchange for reporting incidents. However, most people aren’t even aware that it’s a crime, which means that many end up facing harsh punishment for something that they perceived as a harmless prank.

“This is actually a serious crime,” said Dave Teggins, the general aviation manager at the Salt Lake City Department of Airports. “I think people don’t realize that as the beam travels, it widens. So, what you’re seeing right here as a little pinprick could illuminate a whole window.” 

This can be very dangerous for the pilot. 

“If it’s dark, and your eyes are dark-adjusted, and all of a sudden, your window turns green and lights up, it causes disorientation, and the afterimages left behind can make it difficult to land safely,” Teggins said. 

 Lasing is not only illegal and dangerous, but it is also terrible at making helicopters go away. In fact, Williams and his copilot wouldn’t have circled Herriman at all had somebody not lased them when they were returning home from a training exercise. 

“I was hoping that it was just an inadvertent thing and that we could just forget about it and go home,” said Williams. “But then a few seconds later they did it again. And again. And they wouldn’t quit doing it. So, we said, ‘OK, we’re going to come find this guy.’”

Williams and his copilot circled the area for around 15 minutes, remaining at least a mile away, and used the helicopter’s infrared camera to identify the source of the laser. 

“We were able to video the guy in his house, identify the shape of the yard,” he said. “Then we went to Google street maps, and there was their address, painted on the curb.”

The perpetrator turned out to be a teenager. 

“We specifically requested that the cops not get the FBI involved,” Williams said. “I don’t want any kids going to jail or getting felony charges on their record. When the cop showed up at the door and explained to the dad what was going on, the dad broke the kid’s laser there on the spot.”

In 2009, one of Williams’ coworkers did report a lasing incident to the FBI. The perpetrator, a 30-year-old Bluffdale man, had been outside shining a laser pointer for his cats when, on a whim, he decided to turn the laser toward a passing helicopter. He hadn’t realized that the laser was bright enough to hinder the pilot, but even so, he faced up to five years in prison. Tragically, he committed suicide shortly before he could be sentenced.

Since that sobering incident, no Utah National Guard pilots have reported lasing incidents to the FBI—but not for lack of occurrences. “My unit alone has had two incidents in the past three months,” said Williams.

“It’s way more prevalent than people think,” said Teggins. 

Over the past two years, Salt Lake International had 239 reports of aircraft illuminated on approach or takeoff, roughly one every three to four days according to Teggins. 

And that’s just from one airport. 

“The problem with it is, I don’t think any of them are really nefarious; they’re usually people of the younger persuasion out trying to have fun,” said Teggins. “Parents who buy these laser pointers for their kids have no idea how much trouble they can get in. There are kids on probation that are now felons because they’ve done this. It is serious business.”  

Today, Local Life
  • Apex Fun Run

    02/20/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Aging Mastery Program

    02/20/2018
    02:00PM — 03:30PM

    Join the ten-week health and wellness program, Aging Mastery at Taylorsville Senior Center. The c...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/21/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/23/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • The Nerd

    02/23/2018
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    The Nerd plays at The Theater @ Mount Jordan on February 16, 17, 23, 24, March 2 and 3, 7:30 pm. ...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/24/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • The Nerd

    02/24/2018
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    The Nerd plays at The Theater @ Mount Jordan on February 16, 17, 23, 24, March 2 and 3, 7:30 pm. ...


  • Grand Opening

    02/24/2018
    07:30PM — 08:00PM

    Mister Car Wash has opened a new express location in Taylorsville, UT at 3856 5400 S Salt Lake Ci...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/25/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/26/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Aging Mastery Program - South Jordan

    02/26/2018
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Join the ten-week health and wellness program, Aging Mastery at South Jordan Senior Center. The c...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/20/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Aging Mastery Program

    02/20/2018
    02:00PM — 03:30PM

    Join the ten-week health and wellness program, Aging Mastery at Taylorsville Senior Center. The c...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/21/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/22/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • 4100 South Reconstruction Open House

    02/22/2018
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    West Valley City is preparing to reconstruct 4100 South between Bangerter Highway and 5460 West. ...


  • WJHS FOOTBALL PLAYER PARENT MEETING

    02/22/2018
    06:30PM — 08:00PM

    ITS TIME TO GET READY FOR WJHS 2018 FOOTBALL SEASON. DO YOU WANT TO PLAY FOOTBALL FOR THE WEST J...


  • R.C.I.A.

    02/22/2018
    06:45PM — 09:00PM

    Has your child, grandchild, friend ever ask you why Catholic believe this or do that? Can you exp...


  • Learn the Red Cross Recommendations for Treating water in an Emergency If an emergency struc...


  • Learn the Red Cross Recommendations for Treating water in an Emergency If an emergency struc...


  • Learn the Red Cross Recommendations for Treating water in an Emergency If an emergency struc...


  • *FREE* Online Clean Water Preparedness Webinar

    02/22/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Learn the Red Cross Recommendations for Treating water in an Emergency If an emergency struc...


  • *FREE* Clean Water and Preparedness Seminar

    02/22/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Learn the Red Cross Recommendations for Treating water in an Emergency If an emergency struc...


  • Learn the Red Cross Recommendations for Treating water in an Emergency If an emergency struc...


  • Learn the Red Cross Recommendations for Treating water in an Emergency If an emergency struc...


  • If an emergency struck today, would you be willing to bet on the safety of your drinking water su...


  • *FREE* ULTIMATE Clean Water Preparedness Class

    02/22/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Learn the Red Cross Recommendations for Treating water in an Emergency If an emergency struc...


  • *FREE* Online Training and Preparedness Class

    02/22/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Learn the Red Cross Recommendations for Treating water in an Emergency If an emergency struc...


  • Instruction Classes

    02/22/2018
    07:45PM — 09:00PM

    Has your child, grandchild, friend ever ask you why Catholic believe this or do that? Can you exp...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/23/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • The Nerd

    02/23/2018
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    The Nerd plays at The Theater @ Mount Jordan on February 16, 17, 23, 24, March 2 and 3, 7:30 pm. ...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/24/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • The Nerd

    02/24/2018
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    The Nerd plays at The Theater @ Mount Jordan on February 16, 17, 23, 24, March 2 and 3, 7:30 pm. ...


  • Grand Opening

    02/24/2018
    07:30PM — 08:00PM

    Mister Car Wash has opened a new express location in Taylorsville, UT at 3856 5400 S Salt Lake Ci...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/25/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/26/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Aging Mastery Program - South Jordan

    02/26/2018
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Join the ten-week health and wellness program, Aging Mastery at South Jordan Senior Center. The c...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/27/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Aging Mastery Program

    02/27/2018
    02:00PM — 03:30PM

    Join the ten-week health and wellness program, Aging Mastery at Taylorsville Senior Center. The c...


  • Apex Fun Run

    02/28/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • Apex Fun Run

    03/01/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • R.C.I.A.

    03/01/2018
    06:45PM — 09:00PM

    Has your child, grandchild, friend ever ask you why Catholic believe this or do that? Can you exp...


  • Instruction Classes

    03/01/2018
    07:45PM — 09:00PM

    Has your child, grandchild, friend ever ask you why Catholic believe this or do that? Can you exp...


  • Apex Fun Run

    03/02/2018
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    Apex Fun Run is a fitness-and leadership-based fundraising program for elementary schools. Bennio...


  • The Nerd

    03/02/2018
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    The Nerd plays at The Theater @ Mount Jordan on February 16, 17, 23, 24, March 2 and 3, 7:30 pm. ...


  • The Nerd

    03/03/2018
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    The Nerd plays at The Theater @ Mount Jordan on February 16, 17, 23, 24, March 2 and 3, 7:30 pm. ...


  • Aging Mastery Program - South Jordan

    03/05/2018
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Join the ten-week health and wellness program, Aging Mastery at South Jordan Senior Center. The c...


  • Aging Mastery Program

    03/06/2018
    02:00PM — 03:30PM

    Join the ten-week health and wellness program, Aging Mastery at Taylorsville Senior Center. The c...


  • R.C.I.A.

    03/08/2018
    06:45PM — 09:00PM

    Has your child, grandchild, friend ever ask you why Catholic believe this or do that? Can you exp...


  • Instruction Classes

    03/08/2018
    07:45PM — 09:00PM

    Has your child, grandchild, friend ever ask you why Catholic believe this or do that? Can you exp...


  • Aging Mastery Program - South Jordan

    03/12/2018
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Join the ten-week health and wellness program, Aging Mastery at South Jordan Senior Center. The c...


  • Aging Mastery Program

    03/13/2018
    02:00PM — 03:30PM

    Join the ten-week health and wellness program, Aging Mastery at Taylorsville Senior Center. The c...


 

 

Online Edition
Follow My City Journals on Facebook
Advertise with us

 

City Journals 9500 South 500 West, Suite 205, Sandy, Utah 84070 801.254.5974