Man busted for shining laser pointer at aircraft

- A Vacaville man was arrested this week for allegedly shining a bright green laser at two aircraft, the latest in a spate of incidents that have increased in intensity in recent years, authorities say.

David Charles Fanning, 40, of Vacaville shined a green laser at a Southwest Airlines passenger jet getting ready to land at Sacramento airport, according to the California Highway Patrol.

He then shined the laser at a CHP plane that went looking for the source of the light, authorities said.

It wasn't too hard for the CHP to find Fanning. The CHP officers in the plane simply followed the beam to the ground and directed ground officers in to make the arrest.

CHP pilot Jim Andrews, who estimates he's been lasered dozens of times in his career, says it's possible people assume that when they shine a device at an aircraft, that's the beam is just the size of a little dot -- when in fact it' s swath of blinding light that's now six to eight feet wide.

"People think that little red one that they make their cat run around in circles with is what they're shining us with, when that's not the case," Andrews said.

The number of incidents of laser strikes at aircraft has increased dramatically, Federal Aviation Administration statistics show. While there were 2,837 such cases in 2010, there were 3,984 in 2014.

The motive for these incidents vary, from doing it for fun or anger at the police.

"They didn't realize the dangers, they were just pointing at something, they thought it was something that would be fun to do," Andrews said. "Sometimes they were irritated because we were over the scene."

Pilots say the lasers can distract them and cause serious eye injuries. And that could be dangerous, especially during takeoffs and landings.

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