Pointing Lasers At Aircraft Carries Steep Consequences, Tulsa Man Learns
TULSA, Oklahoma - The number of people pointing lasers at aircraft is a big time problem.
Just eight years ago in 2006, there were less than 400 reports of it, but last year, there were nearly 4,000.
A man arrested for pointing a laser at a Tulsa police helicopter says the whole thing has been blown out of proportion.
In this case, Carl Floyd said had no idea it even happened and that it was just an accident.
Floyd says he was messing around with a laser pointer Saturday night, pointing it at the trees and a nearby cell phone tower.
The next thing he knows, the TPD chopper is hovering in front of his house and the feds are knocking.
"The Tulsa police showed up, then Homeland Security and the FBI," he said. "I was freaking out. At first, I didn't know what was going on, then they told me what was going on and I first I denied it because I was nervous."
Eventually, Carl says he told the truth about being outside pointing the laser around but said he didn't aim it at the police chopper on purpose.
"It was 100 percent accident, not intentional, to hit an aircraft or put anybody else in danger," Floyd said.
At best, the bright flare distracts pilots and prevents them from seeing momentarily. At worst, it can cause permanent blindness, which happened to a Medi-Evac pilot just last month.
You might think pointing a laser is harmless fun, that just goes into the clouds, but they can travel 3 to 5 miles, making it potentially very dangerous.
"That chopper could easily crash into a neighborhood, can you imagine how many people could be injured or killed as a result of that?" TPD Helicopter Unit Officer David Shelby said.
Shelby was in the chopper Saturday night when it was hit, he says, not once, but three or four times by the green laser.
He doesn't believe it was an accident.
A map shows some of the laser incidents in the past year or so in Tulsa, a cluster of them near the airport involving commercial planes.
Shelby says it's more serious than people think.
As for Floyd, the feds released him until his case goes before a grand jury and they decide whether to indict him.
The Federal Aviation Administration fines for pointing a laser at an aircraft are around $11,000. Being charged in federal court could mean up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.