MARYLAND

'Flash blinding' pilots becoming growing, dangerous trend

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A dangerous trend is emerging in the air. Pilots are seeing a big increase in the number of times someone has "flash blinded" them in mid-air with lasers.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The lasers light up a cockpit, bounces off the gauges, disorients pilots and can even temporarily blind him.

It happened to pilot Chris Lovejoy one night as he was trying to help troopers on the ground who were involved in a high speed chase.

"Did we get shot at? I've been in combat in Iraq and the first couple of seconds you're going, 'What is going on?'" Lovejoy says.

Last year alone in Maryland, pilots were "flash blinded" by lasers 63 times. Someone even did it to ABC7’s own NewsChopper 7 pilot in 2009 as he was flying in Silver Spring.

Most of the time, the suspects strike police or Medevac pilots.

Maryland State Delegate Sam Arora of Montgomery County noticed the dangerous trend and introduced a bill to stiffen the penalties on anyone convicted of "flash-blinding" pilots. The maximum penalty would be three years in jail and a $2,500 fine.

The hope is that a much stiffer penalty would deter people from using lasers against pilots.

“Right now, you can be charged with a $500 fine and that's just not serious enough when we're talking about matters of life and death,” Arora says.

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