Pilot Reports Lasering While Flying Over Casper Mountain
The pilot of a commercial plane flying north over Casper Mountain on Monday night reported someone on the mountain had used a laser along the the flight path as he was preparing to land at the airport.
The pilot reported the laser was coming from an area of three broadcasting towers on the mountain, Sgt. Aaron Shatto said Tuesday.
Pointing lasers at airplanes can cause temporary night blindness in pilots, rendering them unable to see their instruments, said Mike Hendershot, chief of public safety at the Casper-Natrona County International Airport.
"It could have catastrophic results," Hendershot said.
The incident happened about 7:30 p.m. The pilot radioed the report to the control tower, which in turn notified him and the Sheriff's Office,Hendershot said. "A Skywest flight from Denver to Casper stated they were illuminated by a green laser."
The airport, following protocol, notified the Transportation Security Administration, which notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he said.
Shatto said a deputy on the mountain checked the tower site on Tower Road, and went to KTWO Road, but did not find any vehicles.
After the plane landed, Hendershot said the pilot and copilot said they saw a vehicle with its lights and two bursts from the laser. "It was not directed at the aircraft, but it was in the vicinity."
Because it apparently was not a deliberate act, it will be reported as suspicious, Hendershot said.
He was not aware of other incidents of people pointing lasers at airplanes in Natrona County or elsewhere in Wyoming, he said.
But this has been a problem elsewhere, Hendershot said.
Because of the increasing popularity of the laser pointers and the potential damage, the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 made it a federal felony to knowingly point the beam of a laser at an aircraft, according to a 2014 FBI report. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The beam from a 5 milliwatt laser pointer is narrow close up. But it can reach up to a mile and grow in diameter to several feet. Pilots have reported the effect is like a camera flash going of in a darkened car, according to the report.