Authorities Investigate Helicopter Laser Danger In OKC

Monday, June 11th 2012, 11:16 pm
By: News 9

An Oklahoma City boy may soon be facing some serious charges after police say what he did could have caused two helicopters to fall from the sky.

It all started with a simple laser pointer. When those lights are pointed at an aircraft, it can cause some serious problems.

On Thursday, the very problem temporarily blinded a helicopter pilot over northwest Oklahoma City.

What started as innocent fun has now turned into a federal investigation.

"You could be looking at some serious punishment," Sky News 9 pilot James Albertson said. "[You could face] some prison time or heavy fines."

Late Thursday, a medical helicopter was en route to Baptist Medical Center with a patient on board when a laser light hit the cockpit. Police were called to the area. When they moved in, the same thing happen to their helicopter.

Albertson has flown medical and police choppers. He took News 9's Michael Konopasek about 1000 feet up to explain the laser danger.

"[The helicopter window] distorts the laser … and it will brighten up the whole cockpit," Albertson said.

Albertson says that will distract the pilot. What happens next, makes the problem even more serious.

"When [a laser] shines upon the aircraft, the first thing you do … is look to see where the laser is coming from, which … creates a danger because the laser shines in the pilot's eyes," Albertson said.

That can temporally blind the pilot and damage the eyes.

"Here in the metro area, we have a unique ability to [communicate] with a police helicopter and tell them what's going on," Albertson said.

That is exactly what happened on Thursday. It did not take long for police to find a boy in his yard with a laser pointer in hand.

Albertson says the feds are really cracking down on the crime. The number of reported laser incidents has more than doubled since 2009.