Pointing Laser at Plane, Police Helicopter Gets Teen 30 Months

Wednesday, 27 Mar 2013 10:24 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A California teen who shined a green laser at two aircraft last March was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Monday.

Adam Gardenhire, 19, of North Hollywood, pleaded guilty last October, admitting to having first shined the light at a private jet landing at California's Burbank Bob Hope Airport and later at a Pasadena police helicopter sent to find the source, the BBC reported.

Commercially obtained laser pointers omit a small beam of light that increases in size over long distances and can temporarily impair a person's vision. If accurately aimed, the laser beam can disrupt a pilot's vision during take-off and landing procedures according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

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The pilot of the California jet above reportedly suffered "vision impairment that lasted for hours" after the incident, according to a statement from the Office of the United States Attorney Central District of California.

It was not reported if there were other individuals in the jet when the incident occurred.

The pilot of a police helicopter who later encountered the same laser was reportedly not injured because he was wearing of protective eye gear.

"Gardenhire had no idea that the deceptively ordinary laser he had borrowed from a friend was powerful enough to be seen by, much less distract, a pilot thousands of feet away," wrote Gardenhire's attorney Sean Kennedy.

Fewer than 300 similar incidents were reported in 2005, but that number had increased by more than 12 times when nearly 3,600 cases were reported in 2011.

The action was made illegal under federal law in February 2012.

"Shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft is not a joke," the FFA's former administrator, Randy Babbitt, told CNN in 2011. "These lasers can temporarily blind a pilot and make it impossible to safely land the aircraft, jeopardizing the safety of the passengers and people on the ground."

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Gardenhire is the second person indicted under the new federal law.

The first was Glenn Stephen Hansen, of Saint Cloud, Fla., who aimed a laser at passenger aircraft at least 23 times from January to March, the Orlando Sentinel reported. He was sentenced to six months in prison in August 2012.

Related stories:

House Moves to Stop Laser Targeting of Aircraft

Pilot's Eye Hurt by Laser Aimed at NYC-bound Jet

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