February 18, 2014

Editorial: Planes, lights can be dangerous mix

Can you imagine that people must be warned not to shine bright lights from the ground into the cockpits of moving planes?

Wouldn’t you think anyone with a modicum of common sense might conclude that would be dangerous?

Well, apparently not. Whether through stupidity or malice, it happens more often than you might think.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently said the number of reported incidents of lights being aimed at cockpits rose from around 2,800 in 2010 to nearly 4,000 in 2013. The increase was tagged partly to more reporting by pilots and also to stronger lasers with farther reach.

The danger exists right here in the North Country, where planes fly in and out of Plattsburgh International Airport and several smaller regional airports every day.

In fact, a Massena man was just charged with pulling a dangerous stunt involving a lightAt about 9:15 p.m. last Wednesday, Massena International Airport called State Police to report that someone trained a bright light on a descending Cessna 402.

“The light illuminated the airplane’s cockpit, making it difficult for the pilot to land the plane,” State Police said in a news release.

Thankfully, the two crew members, who had four passengers on board, were able to land safely.

Troopers charged Michael D. Euto, 49, with reckless endangerment, saying he had aimed an 18 million-candle-power spotlight on the small plane while standing in his backyard. The justice system will decide whether Euto, who is due back in court tomorrow, is guilty.

But it is frightening to think that people can be reckless with the lives of crews and passengers on planes.

It is such a concern that pilots and federal officials have launched a national educational campaign warning about the dangers of people pointing lasers into cockpits. The FBI is offering $10,000 rewards for information that leads to conviction.

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