Blinded By The Light

This one boils my skin. The stupidity of the action. The seemingly whimsical act that could have cost me my life. I take risk. I love adventure. I understand that there are things I do could have dire consequences in spite of what I do to reduce the risk. This is who I am and to take that from me is to take away the things that make me who I am. But when someone else introduces that risk, it’s a whole new world for me. One that I will seek justice.
Tuesday evening I was flying in the Nampa, Idaho area. I was doing my night time proficiency training. The FAA requires that I make 3 nighttime take-offs and landing every 90 days prior to carrying passengers. I was flying more out of my passion to do night flights and not so much for the reason I often carry friends around to see the lights at night.
At about 845 pm (2045 hours local) I departed the runway to do a “left closed pattern” or in other words, I left the runway, would make four precise left turns in the landing patter, land, bring the aircraft to a full stop, exit the runway to the taxiway, leave the taxiway to the take-off spot on the runway, and execute the maneuver all over again.
After my take off I executed my first two left turns and was now headed “downwind”. Aircraft take-off into the wind or “up wind”, I was flying the opposite direction of take-offs and landings. I was at the point where I have to begin my approach to landing sequence. This required me to reduce the throttle and allow the plane to slow down and begin my decent towards earth. Eventually making another two left turns that would bring me onto the smooth service of the runway.
It was just after I pulled the throttle back that I caught the first two flickers of a bright light in my eyes. It was green. It was a laser.
There are over 2000 incidents each year of pilots getting “lit up” or “tagged” with lasers. Ranging from simple hand-held pens to the kind used on rifle scopes and on occasion the ones you see at music concerts. They are extremely dangerous to a pilot. It can cause a pilot to be blinded and not able to fly. It can kill a pilot, his passengers, and people on the ground. I got hit with the kind of laser you find at a rock concert.
I immediately banked the plane out of the pattern. I threw the throttle to the fire wall and made a highly aggressive climbing right turn out of the pattern. I had to take a moment to make sure I was okay and that nothing was wrong with the aircraft. I also needed time to think.
I looked at several options. Fly back into the pattern as normal, bring the aircraft in from a different point and land, or leave the airport and proceed to another airport and land.
I knew I could not land the opposite direction because of the strong winds on the airfield already. The wind was only 10 knots, but it was blowing strait down the runway. I really didn’t want a 10-knot wind at my back while landing at night. I also knew there were no other aircraft in the pattern. I pretty much owned the skies. Instead I flew an evasive pattern away from the spot I had been tagged at and was able to land with the laser behind me. It was a little dicey, but completely safe.
I was overjoyed to know that I caught the incident on video. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the entire attack or replicate the intensity, but it did show that I had come in contact with a laser. If you want to see the attack, check it out on my youtube page
Please don’t be one of these morons. This is extremely dangerous to pilots and carries stiff criminal and civil liabilities. I was lucky that I took immediate evasive action. According to officials in some of my interviews with the FAA, the common mistake is the pilot fixates on the light source. I attribute my reflex to years of military training and operations. Once a soldier is shot at, he never thinks about ducking.

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