Laser Christmas Displays Raise Safety Concerns For Pilots

Thursday, December 10th 2015, 2:15 pm
By: News 9

More homeowners are abandoning traditional Christmas lights for laser displays this holiday season. They project holiday-themed laser beams onto a house or yard, but they can also point into the sky, creating new danger for pilots and their planes.

Last week, a laser decoration 22 miles from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport put a passenger plane in harm's way. This follows a similar complaint last month in Michigan.

It's a federal crime to shine a laser at a plane, and while no one was charged in those cases, several so-called laser strikes are being blamed on the holiday laser displays, reports CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal.

Jen Creaven Parker bought hers at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $40.

"I think they look cool. They come in two options, all green or red," said Parker. "'Lazy lights' is what Facebook is calling them."

Lazy, because they're so easy to install.

But helicopter reporter Stu Mundel, from CBS News' Los Angeles station KCBS, has encountered other types of consumer lasers while in the air.

"I saw the laser in the corner of my eye, I looked at it, and unfortunately, it went right into my eyes, and it does, it stings, it burns, it feels like you have a sunburn on your eye," Mundel said.

From about 1,000 feet up in the air, the traditional Christmas decorations look like fuzzy blobs. But laser light displays that are not properly installed shoot straight up into an aircraft's cockpit, causing some potential problems.

"If the box is aimed a little high, some of the laser light will not hit the roof of the house," said Lynn Lunsford of the Federal Aviation Administration. "It'll just keep going off into space."

Laser strikes - often intentional - have become a growing problem for pilots. In 2014, the FAA investigated more than 3,800 laser light complaints, which has nearly doubled this year.

The FAA is asking homeowners to make sure their decorations aren't pointed towards the sky, or to pull the plug on them altogether.