Walton County 911 Dispatch received a call from the Federal Aviation Administration, just after 11 p.m. on Aug. 15, regarding a green laser light reportedly being shone into the cockpit of a plane as it flew over .
According to a report from the Walton County 911 Center, the coordinates suggested that the laser came from the area of Walmart and Home Depot in Monroe, Ga. However, Maj. Keith Brooks, head of the patrol division of the , said no suspects were located. He said deputies also couldn't align the coordinates with any specific location in Walton County. The coordinates given by the pilot to the FAA were 33.48 N and 83.39 W.
Officials at the FAA are reporting an increase of green laser being shone into the cockpits of planes as they pass overhead. These incidents are considered “life threatening,” according to a recent article in OHSonline (Occupational Health Safety Online). The article reports that the U.S. Coast Guard claims that green lasers aimed at Coast Guard helicopters are "causing havoc." Lt. Stephanie Young, a blogger with the Coast Guard’s Compass blog, is reported as saying that this is happening to Coast Guard aircrews as they fly along the nation's coastline, saving lives. Crews hit by green lasers have to immediately return to base and have an eye exam. The crew members cannot return to flight until a surgeon has cleared them, even if they are on a life-saving, search and rescue mission.
ABC News reported an incident last month that resulted in an eye injury to a JetBlue pilot as the plane was en route to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. A green laser was reportedly pointed into the cockpit from a distance of about 5,000 feet, hitting the first officer directly in the eye. He did, however, manage to land safely at JFK. The light might start out as a pinpoint, but it is reported to spread out as it gets further and further away from the base of the light. By the time it hits the the cockpit, it is reportedly almost blinding to a pilot.
The FAA reports that laser incidents went up by 902 percent from 2005 to 2011. This represents an increase from 300 incidents to 3,500 a year by 2011. Shining a laser into the cockpit of a plane is a federal crime. Anyone caught and successfully prosecuted for the offense faces federal prison time.