Green Lasers Jeopardizing Coast Guard Rescues

The threat along the U.S. coasts is real, according to Lt. Stephanie Young’s report.

An Aug. 14 report on the Coast Guard's Compass blog by Lt. Stephanie Young says green lasers aimed at Coast Guard helicopter pilots are causing havoc. She writes that "this life-threatening incident is not a made-up story but something happening to Coast Guard aircrews along our nation’s coasts as they take flight to save lives."

Her article does not state how many times this has happened. But it says USCG flight crews hit by green lasers must immediately stop searching and land "until each person has an eye exam and is cleared by a flight surgeon. The process can take up to 24 hours, depending on when and where the incident occurred. Additionally, there is typically a two-to-three-hour delay to get a new helicopter and crew on scene to resume a search."

Her article mentions a aircrew from Charleston, S.C., who were targeted by a laser from the ground, and a boatcrew dispatched to the scene did not arrive until two hours after the helicopter had to leave the area. "The source of the flares was never located," she writes.

This is not a small problem, and it is a federal offense. FAA reported laser incidents rose 902 percent from 2005 to 2011, according to her article. Air Station Savannah crews experienced six incidents in the past year and a half, four of them during rescue missions.

"People need to consider how many lives they're putting in danger before they choose to point a laser light at an aircraft," said Cmdr. Gregory Fuller, commanding officer of Air Station Savannah. "It's not only incredibly dangerous for those in and around the aircraft, but it also keeps our aircrews from responding during maritime emergencies. This isn't something we take lightly.

"We've been very fortunate that the green laser incidents haven't yet resulted in tragedy," said Fuller. "But every time we send our aircrews to the Grand Strand, we're telling them to fly into the equivalent of a storm, where it's almost guaranteed they'll be hit. We're simply asking the public to stop putting Coast Guard men and women in senseless and unnecessary danger."

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