Laser beams are grounding U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopters in record numbers, according to an official report.
Civilians on land have been aiming handheld laser pointers at the aircrafts, forcing them to cease their search and rescue missions. Aviation law stipulates that aircrews must land their craft and submit to an eye examination after exposure to a laser beam.
The official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard reports on the problems:
In one recent case, a Coast Guard aircrew still had 40 minutes before their search for the source of Mayday call was complete, when they were forced to land early because of a laser light.
In another case, an aircrew from Air Facility Charleston, S.C., had just arrived at an area called the Grand Strand to start a search. As they began, a laser hit the aircraft, forcing the aircrew to land.
A boatcrew from Station Georgetown was launched to take over the search; however, due to the distance from Georgetown, S.C. the boatcrew didn’t arrive at the search area until two hours after the helicopter departed the scene. The source of the flares was never located.
“We’ve been very fortunate that the green laser incidents haven’t yet resulted in tragedy,” said [Cmdr. Gregory] 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.”