Nov 16th 2009 By Brian Fairbanks
On May 21, 2008 in Orange County, Calif., two Boeing airplanes came under attack as they attempted to land at John Wayne Airport. The culprit was a local man named Dana Christian Welch
, who used a laser pointer to disrupt the vision of the pilots operating both aircraft.
According to court documents, Welch actually caused one pilot to experience "flash blindness," otherwise known as sudden vision impairment, which almost caused one of the planes to crash.
Governments all over the world have been working toward banning high-powered lasers and other disruptive devices. Last year, a coordinated attack in Australia
involving at least four different lasers caused so many flight disruptions that the product was immediately banned.
It's been a long time coming, but yesterday the government put Welch away for more than two years, making him the first person in the country to go to jail for disrupting an airplane's flight path using a handheld laser.
But this frat-boy Osama isn't the only person who thinks blinding pilots is a goofy prank to pull on Saturday night. By 2005, eight separate incidents involving attempted laser disruptions had already been confirmed. Luckily, all of the planes landed safely without any injuries.
And while airline pilots receive instruction in recovering from direct sunlight and lightning flash exposure, these sessions usually cannot prepare our Sullenbergers
from sudden attacks just prior to landing.
Still think this is no big whoop? The Department of Defense says that flash blindness can cause permanent damage and even cerebral hemorrhages. Let's hope Dana Welch's jail sentence sends a message to all those who think this is all just harmless fun.
Oh, and don't even get NASA started on outdoor laser light shows