PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Federal Aviation Administration and Pittsburgh police say they arrested a Pitt student for pointing lasers into the cockpits of two medical helicopters.
Police say the student pointed the laser into the cockpit of a STAT MEDEVAC helicopter as it landed at the UPMC Medical Center.
This happened around midnight Saturday pretty close to the top floor of the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland.
Police say the student did it again at 3 a.m. In both cases, sources indicate the laser created major vision problems for helicopter pilots wearing highly sensitive night vision goggles.
“People are really being stupid,” Jim Peters, a spokesperson for the FAA, said.
For chopper pilots, the laser danger is very real. Every time they take off these days, there is the possibility a laser could create danger for them.
“The MEDEVAC guys who are landing on a rural area on a road someplace out in the dark and somebody decides to play a game and fire a laser at them and he could go blind and crash the helicopter,” Dan Sweazen, a helicopter pilot, said.
The FAA calls the incident at Pitt serious and extremely dangerous, citing a dramatic increase in the number of laser threats to aircraft in the last several years, creating a potential danger for both the pilot or any passengers on board that aircraft.
“We started to track these in 2005 and that year we had 300 reported to us,” Peters said. “Last year we had over 2,800.”
The Pitt student, who was arrested Saturday night as he ran from the scene, is likely to face multiple charges and the possibility of tens of thousands of dollars in civil fines enforced by the FAA.