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Vance Air Force Base seeking public help to end ‘lasing’ of aircrew at night

Vance Air Force Base (U.S. Air Force/Released)

Vance Air Force Base reported an incident in which a laser was pointed at one of its aircraft Monday, posing a danger to both the aircrew and personnel on the ground.

“Lasers pointed toward cockpits, even when the aircraft is 500 feet overhead, are dangerous not only to the pilot, but to the community at large,” according to a Vance press release. “In the past 10 months, and twice in the last few weeks, Vance pilots have reported lasers being shined into their cockpits from various locations around Enid.”

Each incident was reported to Enid Police Department, which is investigating, according to the press release. If the perpetrators are located they face a federal charge punishable by up to five years in prison.

“Pointing a laser, no matter how small, at an aircraft flying is incredibly dangerous to the pilot and the populated areas below,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Occhuizzo, Vance’s chief of safety. “It’s not a game. Lasing the cockpit can distract or cause serious injury to pilots who already have a lot going on while they’re airborne.”

So-called “lasing” also has been known to “leave an afterimage or blind a pilot for precious seconds,” according to the press release.

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“At Vance, this is particularly dangerous because all of the incidents have been in the evening, while the aircraft were either landing or performing touch-and-go maneuvers,” according to Vance public affairs.

Col. Corey Simmons, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, urged the public to refrain from pointing lasers at aircraft, for the sake of public safety and the safety of Vance airmen.

“As I often say, our mission here at Vance is to train world class pilots — and we do this so well because of the tremendous support from the Enid community,” Simmons said. “I do not know the motivations of those using lasers and perhaps it is innocent, not understanding the consequences of these actions. Ideally this message will educate our public to the severe risk lasers impose to flying operations. My ask is that we work together to stop these incidents from happening as a benefit to us all.”

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© 2020 the Enid News & Eagle