Driver charged with shining laser at Fairfax police chopper

Fairfax police have charged a man with the dangerous act of shining a laser light at an aircraft. And the aircraft was the police department’s helicopter, Fairfax One.

The chopper was returning to its hangar around 9:00 Saturday night when, police say, it was hit by the beam of a blue light laser. The crew members say the laser was so strong it bounced off the equipment in the cockpit and temporarily affected both of them.

The flight officers circled back to the area where the light originated and used the aircraft’s infrared camera to identify the source of the laser as a vehicle on Manassas Gap Court in Centreville. After an investigation, the driver of that vehicle was charged with shining a light/laser pointer at an Aircraft. That’s a Class 1 misdemeanor. The Federal Aviation Administration was contacted and a federal investigation will be conducted. Pointing a laser at any aircraft is also a federal crime with a punishment of up to 5 years imprisonment.

Fairfax police want the public to know that it’s extremely dangerous to point a light or laser at any aircraft because it can temporarily blind the flight crew. They say a laser can be easily traced back to where it came from and violators will be charged.

About the Fairfax One helicopter

The Fairfax County Police Helicopter Division maintains a 24-hour, 7 days a week, single-aircraft mission response capability. The standard duty crew is comprised of one pilot and two paramedic qualified police officers.  Fairfax One provides tactical police aviation support, aeromedical evacuation, search & rescue, and other specialized air support as needed within Fairfax County. It has two, Bell 429 helicopters. One is active and one is a back-up. The Bell 429 has twin engine redundancy, military-grade sensors, night vision goggle technology and a lower noise signature which allow for safe and neighborly helicopter operations.

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About the Author

Ed Tobias

Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at FairfaxNews. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years.  This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns.  He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C.
He has won two Ohio State Awards for his reporting and producing and he led coverage that won an Edward R. Murrow Award.