Pilot temporarily blinded after man points laser at his eyes during plane landing

Helen Coffey
A man was arrested for shining lasers at planes: Manatee County Sheriff

A pilot was temporarily blinded by a laser pointed directly at his eyes while he was trying to land an aircraft.

The pilot was coming in to land at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida on the evening of 22 January when the incident occurred.

The plane landed safely, but he said his vision was still blurry after the event.

Police attended the scene after hearing reports that a laser was being pointed at aircraft making their approach to the airport.

A police helicopter was deployed and footage recorded from the cockpit shows the perpetrator shining a laser at them too, before throwing rocks.

Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies located the suspect, Charlie James Chapman, 41, on the east side of the airport, behind a forklift truck.

He started brandishing a hammer at police when he was surrounded and officers eventually tasered him. A laser pointer was found in Chapman’s pocket.

Chapman was taken to a medical centre to be checked before being moved to Manatee County jail.

It was later discovered that he had shone the laser at an aircraft on four occasions.

He was charged with aggravated assault on an officer, pointing a laser at a pilot and resisting arrest.

“Pointing a laser at multiple aircraft didn’t end well for Charlie Chapman Jr,” Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. “He was arrested after pointing one at planes heading into SRQ Airport last night, and then at our MCSO Aviation Unit helicopter. He even tried throwing rocks at the helicopter.”

In 2017, tough new laws on lasers were rolled out in the UK.

The law states that people who shine lasers at pilots or drivers of trains and buses can be jailed for up to five years.

The courts are also able to impose unlimited fines to stamp out the practice.

The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill made prosecutions easier too, by removing the need to prove that someone shining a laser intended to put the driver of a vehicle at risk.

The move followed evidence of a big rise in the number of incidents of lasers being shone at aircraft in the UK, from 746 in 2009 to about 1,258 in 2016.

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