Police plane, jet reportedly flashed by laser beams near PDX - KPTV - FOX 12

Police plane, jet reportedly flashed by laser beams near PDX

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Federal Aviation Administration officials said two separate aircrafts were the target of laser beams Sunday night in Portland.

The laser strikes were reported just a couple hours apart, and both pilots said they were green beams, according to the FAA.

One of the strikes, a Portland Police Bureau spokesperson said, was reported by the pilot of a PPB Air Support Unit.

“Some people think it’s cute, and it’s funny, and they do stuff without realizing the danger. Other people do it because it’s malicious,”  said Richard Gritta, a professor of finance and transportation at the University of Portland.

An expert on aviation, Gritta said laser strikes are much more likely to happen at take-off or landing — the most critical phases of flight.

“If there’s one thing to not mess around with it’d be an aircraft, I would think,” said a passenger who had just landed at Portland International Airport on Monday night.

The FAA said when a laser beam illuminates a plane, it’s much like the flash of a camera: It temporarily blinds pilots for a few seconds.

Najib Atwi, a commercial pilot, tells FOX 12 he’s had to avoid two laser beams in the last month and a half.

“It’s something that needs to be taken seriously. When you’re flying at night, night is incredibly important for us. You have the runway lights in sight, and the last thing you need is to be distracted when you’re at low level,” Atwi said. “I was able to see it and not really look and stare at it, so I stayed focused on flying the airplane. But it can be very distracting because it’s green, and it’s very bright, and it flashes at you.”

Atwi said the laser beams cause disorientation, and interfere with a pilot’s ability to safely fly.

“What if some kid did it? And blinded the pilot and the plane crashed. You have to live the rest of your life knowing you brought down a plane,” said Gritta.

“With all the terrorism going on in the world, I don’t think it’s something to joke about,” said another person at PDX. 

It’s a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at a plane. A person can be behind bars for several years, and receive up to a $250,000 fine. Additionally, the FAA can fine a person up to $11,000.

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