Laser beam hits SkyWest flight from PDX

Travelers at PDX, May 8, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Travelers at PDX, May 8, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A SkyWest flight leaving Portland was illuminated by a laser as it left the area Monday night and authorities are looking into whether it was intentional.

The Port of Portland Police was told about the green laser shining on a SkyWest flight to Redmond around 10:50 p.m. Monday, PDX spokesperson Steve Johnson told KOIN 6 News.

In a police report, SkyWest Capt. Rod Takaki said the laser hit the aircraft at 10,000 feet as he was climbing, but it did not illuminate the cockpit. He told investigators he was not sure if the laser beam was intentional, but he did not rule it out.

Though he was unfamiliar with the area, Takaki told investigators it came from somewhere in the Clackamas area.

And it caused quite a scare for those watching over the air.

“They don’t know if you’re trying to crash the plane,” said Mary Rosenblum, president of the Oregon Pilots Association, “or if you’re an idiot who doesn’t know better … TSA doesn’t think it’s cool, and they don’t know you’re not a terrorist.”

Laser pointers aimed at aircraft is a problem so bad that in 2012 the FBI called it an epidemic.

This incident wasn’t all. A Reddit comment lit up Tuesday with people talking about being shined as they were approaching for landing on an Alaska Airlines flight.

Passengers on-board Alaska Air flight 619 from Vegas told KOIN 6 News they saw a green laser shining brightly into the plane while flying in over Gresham Monday night.

“I saw what I thought was a green flashlight on the ground,” said passenger Mike Herman. “[It] lit the whole cabin up.” His fear, he said, was of the light blinding the pilots.

Port of Portland’s spokesperson said these laser shinings now are happening at PDX about twice a week.

“We saw our numbers double last year,” said Steve Johnson with the Port of Portland.

In 2012 the numbers doubled to 100 reports. This year there have already been about 50.

Rosenblum said the shinings are incredibly dangerous for commercial pilots. The light can blind them. And she worries things could turn deadly quickly if people start shining lasers at smaller planes.

“It’s not just a matter of ‘Let’s be cute and get some jollys and harass these guys,’” Rosenblum said. “It’s like, ‘Do your really want to kill someone and do you really want to kill the people who might be under them when the plane crashes?‘ Keep these things away from aircraft.”

Making those small plane fears a little more real: on Monday night Port of Portland also received a call from a pilot using the small general aviation airport in Troutdale, Ore. The pilot reporting their small aircraft was shined as well.

The Port of Portland has a tipline for anyone to report laser being flashed at airliners — 503.460.4441.

– KOIN Reporter Joel Iwanaga contributed information used in this report.

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