Lasers imperil Sacramento police copter pilots

In case it wasn't already obvious, Sacramento police would like to drive home a point: Shining a light into a helicopter cockpit — or that of any aircraft — is a bad idea.

Sure, it's illegal. And yes, it can get you time behind bars. But a laser's beam can cause serious problems for a pilot and for the public below, authorities said.

"Even for short exposure, it can cause temporary loss of vision," said Dr. David Telander, an ophthalmologist and retinal specialist at the UC Davis Medical Center. "When you're flying, that's critical."

Sacramento police report a troubling increase in the number of incidents involving lasers pointed at their helicopter, Air One. One pilot suffered vision problems and headaches for days after being hit by a laser, according to officials.

Other law enforcement agencies have seen the trend, too, and say it's a concern in the commercial airline industry as well.

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