01 August 2011

Blinded By The Light

It's a HOT, humid Friday night.
I come to work knowing things might get interesting as the night progresses.
And they do.
Liquid flows in great quantities on evenings like this. Much of that liquid contains alcohol. Alcohol affects judgment. Poor judgment means job security for those of us in EMS.
But increasingly, it brings dangers to us too.

Our flight to pick up the patient, load him, and start the journey to get the care he needed was proceeding uneventfully. At about midnight, somewhere midway between the sending and receiving hospitals, a green FLASH hit me in the face. Your first reaction is, "What the hell is that?!" Your second (involuntary) reaction is to search for the problem in order to try to rectify it. That's a mistake. And it could have blinded me.

Someone, at midnight, out in the middle of nowhere, had pointed a green laser at our helicopter.
The brilliance of the light momentarily shocked and disoriented me. The "What the hell..." reaction contains a great deal of confusion, as your mind tries to sort out what could be causing such a bright light to suddenly appear.
When I finally realized what happened I dialed up the frequency for the closest operating FAA control tower, (in this case an Air Force Base) and reported what had happened. But I knew that action was probably futile...
What would the tower do? Maybe call local law enforcement and report what had happened so that if someone else reported something similar they could begin to track the culprit down. But the likelihood of catching someone doing this in the country in the dark of night is very, very slight.

Who would do such a thing? Why would they take the risk of blinding me and maybe killing all aboard my aircraft?
All sorts of answers come to mind:
An immature individual, thinking no harm would be done.
Someone under the influence of intoxicants, reverting to the thought patterns and immaturity of an adolescent.
Someone irritated by the sound of aircraft flying by on a hot summer night.
Can you think of others that, in an impetuous second, might do something so thoughtless?

We hear more and more reports of lasers being focused on aircraft. And one of the things that scares me is the thought that IF a pilot is blinded by these lights, the accident report will surely come up with big question marks as to why a perfectly healthy pilot flew a perfectly functional aircraft into the ground, killing patient, Nurse, Paramedic, and him/herself.

I now know of two incidences where this has happened to helicopters in our fleet, and in both cases it happened when a patient was on board and the pilot could not divert to investigate and see if he could locate the culprit.
And if this behavior escalates, we're going to have to begin to consider wearing some sort of protective eyewear to preclude being blinded by lasers.

What a world we live in, huh?


The Old Man said...

Kinda made you wish you could've rolled in and given the point of origin half a pod of 2.75"s.

Or at least I would've reacted that way... Glad you are still safe, amigo - not to mention your payload.

Old NFO said...

You NEED to go get your vision checked... We had a Navy Helo pilot get permanent eye damage from a similar incident up in Washington State. Sperian Laser-Gard is the recommended one.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

It's true. Technology enables it and the internet enables it. But, on the other hand, I wouldn't disable technology or the internet.

Assholes will be assholes no matter where they are or what they possess. They will be and do so with lasers or shovels or bungee cords or two tin cans and a piece of string.

What kind of helmet are you wearing and what kind of shield potentially fits over the helmet? And are the lasers diffused by the plexiglas of the helo?


the golden horse said...

1st. I am glad you survived the laser attack. Yes, that is what it is, an attack.
Living right next to all the air traffic here, we have heard of a few instances, and even an arrest. Thank God for that.
Be diligent and keep requesting for an investigation, we all deserve it. You might just save some lives down the road, if this is someone's sick little sport.

cj said...

GB -

Good grief. I'm at a loss when I hear about things like this. Glad you're okay.


Beau's Mom said...

There is a new piece of science now in the hands of "those to be feared because it's illegal to kill them".

Let's say you're in an alley and you just plain want to kill the cops who are after you.

The lazer shoots a beam so blinding that anyone following you is temporarily blinded.

You can enjoy your evening of cop killing and no one can see where the bullets are coming from.

Joe and I watched this demo on television one night and retched at the implications.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Glad you retained control of the helo - and sorry that the cretin got away.

It ain't the laser I blame - it's the idiot who holds it. Some people are only alive 'cause it ain't legal to kill 'em. yet.

Tumo said...

Hey GB! I concur with the first guys comment! Although, I prefer the GAU 8\A...I know its been a minute or two since I last checked in but still lovin' the blog! Fly SAFE...brother!

Greybeard said...

Ahh Brother Tumo, the GAU 8\A...
Love the weapon, but the "holster" comes at a pretty high price, doesn't it?!! ;>)

Tumo said...

LOL yeah, its a hell of a holster!
You know what they say.."You can take the driver out of the Hawg but, you can't take the Hawg out of the driver!"