Lasers pointed at aircraft pose dangerGeorge Anthony Lubertozzi was booked into the St. Croix County Jail on a reckless endangerment charge July 25 for allegedly shining a laser pointer at a Life Link helicopter from a campground near Somerset. Since then the FBI has taken over the case and the U.S. District Attorney in Madison is interested in prosecuting the matter, Chief Sheriff’s Deputy John Shilts said.
By: By Jon Echternacht, Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
George Anthony Lubertozzi was booked into the St. Croix County Jail on a reckless endangerment charge July 25 for allegedly shining a laser pointer at a Life Link helicopter from a campground near Somerset.
Since then the FBI has taken over the case and the U.S. District Attorney in Madison is interested in prosecuting the matter, Chief Sheriff’s Deputy John Shilts said.
The 32-year-old Lubertozzi of Bolingbrook, Ill., was free on a $5,000 signature bond and due to make another appearance in court Aug. 23. He probably didn’t realize at the time that his actions had federal implications.
The Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers Act of 2007 under Section 2, paragraph (a) states: “Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path or such an aircraft shall be fined or imprisoned not more than five years or both.
A laser beam causes a problem for pilots flying at night. Bob Steinbauer, program aviation manager for AMC Life Links III, said a laser beam aimed at a cockpit presents a safety issue for the crew.
“An night when a laser beam hits the cockpit window it produces a blinding light,” Steinbauer said. “The pilot wears night vision goggles. They amplify the ambient light 30,000 times and when a laser beam hits the goggles it can disorient the pilot.”
Steinbauer said often times the person who shined the beam at an aircraft can’t be located. “We had a situation with Life Link out of Hutchinson, Minn., recently where the laser user couldn’t be found.”
The sheriff’s report on the incident in St. Croix County said the pilot of the Life Link chopper traveling from St. Paul to Rice Lake used his GPS device to locate the source of the laser. Deputies who followed up at about 1 a.m. saw a green laser light reflecting off the clouds at Rivers Edge campground in rural Somerset and apprehended Lubertozzi.
According to the website laserpointer.com a person should never aim a laser pointer at aircraft because it is not only unsafe but also could get the user arrested and aid in banning laser pointers.
When a laser beam is on an aircraft, pilots see a flash of light. This can be distracting at best. Worse, the light can be so bright it causes glare (pilots can’t see past the light) or temporary flash blindness (like getting a camera flash in your eye). Also, some pilots have thought a laser gun sight was being aimed at them, so they have taken evasive action on takeoff or landing.
Jon Echternacht is a reporter at
the Hudson (Wis.) Star-Observer, which is owned by
Forum Communications Co.