Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Laser aimed at Coast Guard on approach to Kahului Airport, Hawaii

Lt. Aaron Gastaldo

Lt. Casey Corpe

Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL 

 KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Another bright green laser forced a Coast Guard plane to abort its landing during a training mission on Monday night. The HC-130H Hercules aircraft was approaching the Kahului Airport with seven crew members were onboard when someone aimed a laser at the plane. Only co-pilot Lt. Aaron Gastaldo, 38, was affected. 

 "At 4,000 feet, I noticed a green flash off my left side, a little bit to my left, and I looked down and there was a green laser," said Gastaldo.

The plane immediately returned to Barbers Point on Oahu.

"It's upsetting because we had to call another pilot in who can't spend time with his family, and there's also a gap in the service that we provide to the public as far as distressed mariners," said Gastaldo.

Laser pointers can cause flash blindness or a temporary loss of night vision, but doctors cleared Gastaldo to fly again. This was the third laser incident in a little more than a year for Coast Guard crews based at Barbers Point.

Someone pointed a long-range laser at a helicopter two miles offshore of Oahu in October 2012. Another chopper encounter happened in December 2011. The FAA received 46 reports of laser incidents in Hawaii in 2012, up from 36 in 2011.

"It is difficult, but I know the federal agencies and state agencies are getting better at pinpointing," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Casey Corpe. "They will try and pinpoint that location and prosecute anybody if they do find them and it is a federal offense."

"It's not a game, so people that are doing it need to stop, and if you know people that are shooting aircraft with lasers, they need to stop, tell their friends to stop," said Corpe.

Police in Dallas, Texas arrested a man who allegedly beamed a laser at a police helicopter tracking a burglary suspect on Monday. The pilot was able to pinpoint the source and officers on the ground nabbed a 22-year-old man.

There were 3,482 last reports nationwide in 2012, according to the FAA.

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