New laser holiday light display could blind pilots

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DALLAS — An American Airlines pilot reported being flashed by a laser from a holiday display — and that’s causing concern.

New laser Christmas lights are supposed to make decorating for the holidays easier since no ladders, nails, and hammers are needed for installation, but Federal Aviation Administration investigators said the laser light holiday displays are proving dangerous for pilots.

FAA officials say the Boeing 737 was hit by a laser while flying at 13,000 feet. A Dallas police helicopter traced the beam back to a home about 22 miles east of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

Retired pilot Danny Kelly was not surprised to hear what happened to an American Airlines crew recently.

“It’s something that most people don’t think about when they’re putting up some kind of display or anything like that. They don’t realize that they might be causing a problem,” Kelly said.  “The intent is what’s important. Obviously these people did not intend for this to happen. If they had been told by the FAA to shut it off and they don’t then that might border on being violating a criminal law otherwise no it’s not."

Kelly said those who choose to purchase and set up laser light displays need to make sure they’re pointed at the house, and not the sky. He has a message for those buying into this emerging holiday decorating technology — lighting up their homes without care.

“I’d tell them to stop immediately — because first of all, they’re endangering people’s lives and second of all, they’re endangering people’s health and third, they themselves could end up in criminal prosecution,” Kelly said.

The FAA would most likely first ask the homeowners who are shooting lasers into the sky to turn them off, or redirect them, according to Kelly.  If that doesn’t happen, that’s when they could face prosecution.

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