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Mercy Air Ambulance Hit by Green Laser

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According to an article posted by 10 News, a rotor air ambulance from Mercy Air experienced a laser pointer incident not once, but twice, while on its way back from transporting a gunshot victim.

The laser strikes occurred sometime around 1AM Pacific Time yesterday, according to 10 News.

Aiming any kind of laser at an aircraft is a felony. Those who are charged with interfering with aircraft using easily-available handheld lasers can be charged with heavy fines and often prison time — and the perps are caught more often than you might think.

In this case, a Sheriff’s helicopter was dispatched to the area where the strikes were reported by the air ambulance. Unfortunately, in this case, they were unable to find the person who had been shining the laser. Typically — and especially in the case of repeated laser strikes against an aircraft — police aerial units can often pinpoint the location using sophisticated equipment.

Once the location is pinpointed, police helicopters typically relay the location to ground-based units who quickly apprehend the perpetrator.

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Based on the rate at which these felons are caught, it would appear that the people who carelessly or maliciously shine these pocket lasers at aircraft tend to forget that the origins of lasers are easily traceable. After all, they literally draw a line leading directly back to the laser itself — and the person using it.

If you’ve been a reader of Air Medical Net for a while, you know we’ve discussed the growing problem of green laser strikes against air ambulances several times over the past few years. As we explain in a more in-depth fashion in the three articles just linked to, these cheap, easy-to-acquire powerful lasers can completely ruin visibility for pilots and even air medical crews caring for critical patients.

The beams produced by these toys (formerly used mainly by astronomers) present a great threat to both rotor and fixed-wing air ambulances, as well as most other civilian aircraft. This is not only due to the way the beams scatter and reflect once they pass through the windshield, but because they often occur at night making the light that enters the low-light environment of a night-time patient transport appear even more brilliant.

It’s now 2013, and we have yet to come up with any clear solutions for reducing the steadily growing number of laser incidents that occur every year, endangering air medical transports and presenting a needless hazard to all other areas of civilian aviation.

As an professional in the aeromedical world, how do you think we should solve this problem? We encourage you to leave your opinions below.

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Discussion
  1. #1 EMS Crew#1 EMS Crew

    1 / 12 / 2013 10:54 am

    Increase the penalties for people who are caught doing this. Any non-minor who is caught shining a laser at an aircraft should be guaranteed prison time. Interfering with the vision of the pilot of a air ambulance flight is at best manslaughter. If they know what they are doing it could be considered murder. It’s sad that this happens so many times a year. What is wrong with people. Thank God we’ve never had to deal with one of these incidents.

    Reply

    • KeepUp57

      1 / 13 / 2013 6:04 am

      No offense intended EMS, but the penalties for interfering with an aircraft in flight are pretty stiff.

      Not to say that they shouldn’t be made harsher (a $250k fine would seem pretty harsh to me!) but the idiots who are doing this probably don’t know the penalty or dont’ think they will be caught at all. In this case perhaps the public’s lack of awareness about the problem is the problem?

      Reply

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