JBER aircraft suffer base's first-ever laser strikes
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson officials are calling for the public’s help after the base’s first reported incident of lasers being used to illuminate cockpits this week.
JBER spokesman Rome Baysmore said the four targeted aircraft, F-22s, had been on approach to the base Tuesday evening. He declined to discuss whether the pilots were temporarily blinded during the incident.
Anchorage already has congested airspace due to the proximity of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Lake Hood and Merrill Field to JBER, Baysmore said, heightening the threat lasers can pose.
“There’s a lot of things pilots have to pay attention to, with regards to safety, and this is just something we can’t have happening,” Baysmore said. “We already have a lot of air traffic in the area between military aircraft and civilian aircraft, so the potential for danger in the area is pretty high.”
Aiming a laser at an aircraft has been a federal crime since 2012, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website.
FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said Anchorage's first reported laser strikes against civilian aircraft occurred in 2010 when two aircraft were targeted. Three more were illuminated in 2011, as well as one each in 2012, 2014 and 2015 -- but six aircraft suffered laser strikes in 2016.
The military says the green laser beam likely came from the Spenard area. At this point, they aren't investigating, and they don't believe whoever did it was trying to hurt anyone. But, the military wants the public to know that shining a laser at a plane in flight can have serious, deadly consequences.
"When you’re flying on a dark night, and the laser light is shining into the cockpit, it can cause temporary blindness," said Col. Chris Niemi, 3rd Wing Commander at JBER. "If you were to look at the laser, but also, just the fact that it’s illuminating the cockpit, it can be very distracting to the pilot and that’s our concern."
Beyond the safety concern, shining a laser at a plane is a felony crime. In 2015, a man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for a similar incident.
Anyone who sees someone using a laser to illuminate aircraft should call 911 or contact JBER officials at (907) 552-1110.
“If you see something, say something,” Baysmore said.
Liz Raines contributed to this report.