Safety seminar sheds light on laser-pointer dangers for pilots

Sky 12 crew temporarily blinded by laser Monday night

SAN ANTONIO – A safety seminar for local pilots focused, among other things, on a dangerous problem that recently affected KSAT's Sky 12 crew.

Members of the Federal Aviation Administration reminded the group of pilots at the San Antonio Police Training Center that it's a federal crime that should be reported when anyone points a laser at an aircraft.

The pilots attending the sessions Wednesday morning included those who work for the military, local and state law enforcement agencies and commercial organizations.

A Sky 12 crew Monday night repeatedly had to change course when someone on the ground hit the helicopter with a laser beam.

The helicopter was flying over the AT&T Center to capture video of the crowd leaving a Spurs game.

"Motivations behind why people do it? I couldn't guess," said Officer Douglas Greene, a San Antonio police spokesman. "But the thing is, they shouldn't be doing it because they're putting people's lives in danger."

Greene said not only can the lasers damage a pilot's eyes, they also can cause a crash that could injure or kill the helicopter crew and people on the ground.

He said San Antonio Police Department helicopters are targeted from time to time for the unwanted light shows.

"There is a very rapid response when that does happen. They notify the patrolmen on the ground," Greene said.

For other pilots, tracking down the offenders may take a bit more work.

In the end, the perpetrators could pay a heavy price for what may have been intended as a light joke.

"Very serious punishment," Greene said. "There's up to a $25,000 civil penalty. You're looking at five years in prison. Plus, there are also up to $250,000 in fees for the federal criminal offense."


About the Author:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.