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Laser pointed at helicopter 4 times over weekend

Laser becoming bigger problem for pilots around the country

MIAMI – Federal aviation officials are investigating reports from a helicopter pilot who claims that he was flashed by a laser while in flight at least four times this weekend. 

Commander Robert Yount showed Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela what makes a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue chopper a powerful tool in the sky and how dangerous a laser pointed at a helicopter can be.

"They can light up the whole cabin and really make it blinding to everybody," Yount said.

He then explained why laser lights can quickly make things dangerous, especially for helicopter pilots. 

"A helicopter, you constantly have to be in control because it can lose control quickly," Yount said.

On Saturday, the pilot of an EC 135 helicopter was five miles northeast of Miami Executive Airport when he reported laser lights in the cockpit.

Authorities said it happened four times at about 7:30 p.m.

What authorities call a "laser strike" is being reported more often around the country.

In 2014, a little more than 3,800 incidents were reported and the federal officials are trying to crack down on the perpetrators.

"It is a tremendous distraction within the flight deck. It is a very real safety hazard," AlPA security council chairman Capt. Robert Hamilton said in a video released by the FBI about the dangers of pointing lasers at aircrafts.

In 2012, the president signed a law that makes it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. 

Those who break the law can be sentenced to up to five years in prison and can be fined up to $11,000.

"Anytime that you’re distracted or blinded, even temporary, can be a big thing," Yount said.

Yount believes that it is an educational issue and many people don't know the true consequences of laser strikes. 

So pilot are prepared, but hope that it doesn't happen to them. 

"Even at night, we put the visors down to try and help, and other than that just turn the aircraft away from the area where we think there could somebody down there lasing," Yount said.


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