Man pleads guilty to shining laser pointers at Oceana aircraft

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WVEC.com

Posted on July 31, 2012 at 5:51 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 31 at 6:30 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH--The Navy wants people to stop pointing lasers at its aircraft and all aircraft.

So far this year, there have been 18 incidents reported by pilots based at NAS Oceana. In 2011, there were 12 incidents for the entire year.

A lot of them are at the Oceanfront from hotel balconies, NAS Oceana spokeswoman Kelley Stirling told WVEC.com.

Tuesday afternoon, Oceana's commanding officer Captain Robert N. Geis and two pilots will talk about the dangers of pointing lasers at aircraft in flight.

Officials say lasers have been pointed through the canopy, generally while jets are preparing to land. The lasers can cause eye damage and create a problem for them in a critical time of flight.

Across the country in 2011, there were more than 2,800 incidents of laser pointing, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

In U.S. District Court in Norfolk Tuesday morning, a 56-year-old Va. Beach man pleaded guilty to twice pointing a laser at pilots flying near Oceana.

56-year-old Robert Bruce Jr. was indicted in mid-June for incidents reported on or about April 11 and June 5. He was charged with two counts of interference with flight crew, two counts of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, and two counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees.

Federal authorities say he made numerous calls to the NAS Oceana Air Operations Community Noise Complaint Line. Among the calls was a threat that, “If he had a .30-30 (rifle) he would take potshots at the aircraft,” they stated.

The aviators used a mapping device to pinpoint the origin of the laser, leading authorities to Bruce’s home.

In February, Congress made it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft.

Bruce faces up to 20 years in prison when his sentenced on October 19.

 

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