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CHP pilot worries about vision damage after laser hits plane: ‘Something has happened’

Laser Light (frankieleon/Flickr)

Pilot Jan Sears says a California Highway Patrol flight over Vacaville became anything but routine Monday night when a brilliant light filled the cockpit, KOVR reported.

“So it’s pitch black and we’re flying and all of the sudden it’s like the sun just came out,” said Sears, according to the station. “It took me a minute to get my bearings and then we started going to work because that’s what we do.”

Police arrested Christopher Larsen, 33, on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft in the incident at 10:50 p.m. Monday, The Sacramento Bee reported.

While Sears safely landed the CHP plane in Napa after being flashed by the laser, he says his vision still hasn’t fully recovered, KNTV reported.

“I’m still having residual effects with my left eye,” he said, according to the station. “I feel that something has happened.”

Alan Johnson, who flies charitable medical transports, says lasers can be incredibly dangerous to pilots, KTXL reports.

“If we get hit by a laser, we can become instantly blind and not see where we need to be,” he said, according to the station. “Things can go wrong in an aircraft instantaneously. It could be life or death.”

Sears “maintained control of the aircraft after engaging the auto-pilot mechanism,” giving the pilot time to recover while a flight officer directed a camera to the source of the laser, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Solano County sheriff’s deputies say they found Larsen with a high-powered laser, according to the publication.

Civilian and military flights around Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield have also reported laser strikes, The San Francisco Chronicle reports, but it’s not known if they are related.


© 2020 The Sacramento Bee