La Mesa man jailed for shooting laser at helicopter
Please, don’t EVER point a laser pointer, or ANY sort of laser beam towards ANY type of aircraft. This past Saturday, June 8 San Diego Sheriff Deputies Brown and Dollard were flying in a police helicopter over La Mesa. Near 12:30 am, a green laser light flashed in their eyes several times.
They used their onboard infrared camera to pinpoint the source of the beam striking them. This led them to Fernando Arrolando, a 34 year-old La Mesan, who had been aiming his laser pointer at the helicopter from his Baltimore Avenue apartment balcony.
The deputies contacted La Mesa Police, and officers were sent to Arrolando’s location. Once there, he told the police he used a 20 milliwatt green laser to light up the helicopter so he could see it better. Devices like Arrolando’s seen in internet ads claim to have a range of more than seven miles. After taking possession of the laser, police arrested him, charged with five counts of discharging laser light at an aircraft.
Lasers can momentarily blind the pilot of an aircraft. The disaster this could cause is made more likely by the fact the most lasers are effective at much longer distances than the person pointing the device realizes. As the beam travels, it spreads from a tiny dot one millimeter across to a wider swath of light, several feet across. Although the beam is still powerful enough to distract a pilot, it has been dispersed enough to be difficult to avoid.
The danger lies in the light received by the pilot’s eyes preventing any sight beyond its glare. Additionally, if the level of the laser’s power is sufficient, temporary blindness and severe afterimages lasting more than 30 seconds may result. Because the person aiming the laser pointer can’t hold the beam consistently on the craft, the light looks like it is flashing on and off as it strikes the eyes, causing repeated shocks and afterimages.
Please, don’t EVER point a laser pointer, or ANY sort of laser beam towards ANY type of aircraft.