FORT KNOX, Ky. – It happened twice in five days; now officials are reminding the community just how dangerous and illegal it is to point a laser at an aircraft.
The incidents took place April 15 and 20. Fort Knox Range Operations officer Stuart Holder said in both incidents a green laser was aimed at airplanes in the same area.
“The laser was aimed at civilian aircraft flying near Fort Knox within the Special Use Airspace that surrounds [the post’s] ranges,” said Holder. He also added one aircraft was able to specifically target from where the laser was coming.
Reports state military police were immediately dispatched to the point of origin. However, they were unable to locate those responsible. Installation Safety Specialist Wendy Steinhoff said there are severe repercussions for anyone caught deliberately shining a laser at an aircraft.
“Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft can be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned up to five years, or both,” said Steinhoff.
According to Steinhoff, the reason for such serious ramifications is because directing a laser at another person’s eyes not only could potentially cause damage to their vision, it also poses a life-threatening danger.
“I think the most important message to get out is how dangerous it can be to point a laser at anyone, anytime,” said Steinhoff, “especially someone flying an aircraft.”
Steinhoff explained lasers can cause temporary blindness or at times, permanent damage to the affected eyes. She said even if a pilot was simply distracted while flying, the risk of crashing becomes a serious possibility.
While civilian aircraft were targeted in the two recent cases, Steinhoff pointed out the added threat that lasers pose to military pilots sharing the same airspace: when they use night vision goggles.
“Where a pilot is using NVGs, even a [low power] laser pointer can cause serious visual interference for an individual,” said Steinhoff. “NVGs magnify the light from the laser.”
Officials said they are hoping the community understands how dangerous lasers can be, and no further incidents occur. Steinhoff warned such actions are more than simply a bad idea.
“It’s definitely not worth the danger it can place a crew in,” said Steinhoff, “or worth the punishment for doing so.”
Authorities are asking anyone with information about these incidents to contact Fort Knox Military Police Desk at 502-624-2111.