View Full Version : Man indicted for shining laser at aircraft

Flying Lawyer
25th Mar 2005, 08:46
WNBC New York Man Who Admitted Shining Laser At Aircraft Indicted

NEWARK, N.J. -- A man accused of pointing a laser at an airplane, temporarily blinding the pilot and co-pilot, has been indicted under an anti-terror law.
David Banach also was accused of lying to the FBI about the Dec. 29 incident, in which a passenger jet's windshield and cabin were hit three times by a green laser as the plane readied to land at Teterboro Airport.

Banach's lawyer, Gina Mendola-Longarzo, said her client was using the laser to look at stars with his daughter when the plane was hit by the beam.
"I think it's an absolute abuse of prosecutorial discretion to charge my client under the Patriot Act for non-purposeful conduct," Mendola-Longarzo said.

A cluster of reports of lasers striking airplanes received wide attention between Christmas and New Year's Day, and prompted Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to warn that federal officials will aggressively prosecute those caught shining the bright beams into cockpits.

Banach, 38, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on one count of interference with pilots of an aircraft "with reckless disregard for the safety of human life," a provision of the USA Patriot Act passed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
He also was charged with two counts of making false statements to law officers, each of which carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Prosecutors said Banach, after repeatedly lying to authorities about the incident, finally admitted Jan. 1 that he pointed the laser at the plane.
Mendola-Longarzo said it would have been more appropriate to charge her client under a New Jersey law against interfering with an aircraft, a disorderly persons offense that carries no jail time.
"There was no way to resolve it by plea negotiations," the lawyer said.

The charges stem from a Dec. 29 charter flight from Boca Raton, Fla. preparing to land at Teterboro Airport and flying at about 3,000 feet at the time of the incident, according to the indictment.
"During the approach, the pilot and co-pilot observed a green-colored laser beam strike and illuminate the aircraft's windshield on approximately three occasions. The laser beam flashes illuminated the cockpit, causing both pilots a temporary loss of night vision. This loss of vision briefly prevented the pilots from observing the aircraft's flight instruments and other aircraft in the vicinity," the indictment said.

Two days later, on New Year's Eve, the pilot was taken by law officers in a helicopter above the area where the laser hit the cockpit, and the helicopter was struck with a similar beam from a home, and FBI agents went there.
Banach said his 7-year-old daughter shined the laser on the helicopter and showed them a green laser that he said can reach about a mile into the sky.
Later, however, Banach admitted he shone the laser at the helicopter, but denied any involvement with the charter aircraft incident, the indictment said.
Later that day he gave a second written statement "acknowledging that he 'withheld the truth' and shined the laser on the aircraft," the indictment said.

The charges in the federal indictment are similar to those filed against Banach by the FBI in January. The indictment, handed up by a grand jury in Newark, replaces the FBI complaint.

Tudor Owen

The African Dude
25th Mar 2005, 09:09
Banach said his 7-year-old daughter shined the laser on the helicopter and showed them a green laser that he said can reach about a mile into the sky. Later, however, Banach admitted he shone the laser at the helicopter What an @rse!! Who blames their child for things like this?? This guy has a problem.

25th Mar 2005, 09:23
.... Git a rope.......

25th Mar 2005, 09:29
Is the Patriot Act really the correct instrument for his prosecution? He is obviously a fool and commited a criminal act, but is he a terrorist? Had the Patriot Act not been in existence, how would the authorities have proceeded?

25th Mar 2005, 11:03
So how exactly does one use a laser to 'look at stars' ?

25th Mar 2005, 11:45
Astronomers use laser pointers to point out stars in just the same way someone in a lecture hall would use one... :8

Hunters and snipers use them too. I guess they might point into the sky too. But only at shooting stars. :}

25th Mar 2005, 12:52
They are freely available and used for pointing out celestial objects. They are incredibly bright. I have never thought them to be a good idea, for precisely the reasons highlighted (sic) by this unfortunate incident.



The manufaturer's site does include the following warning, but IMHO it is nowhere near prominent enough:
The SkyPointer™ should never be pointed at vehicles, boats, or aircraft, even distant ones.
Astronomy is one of my other pursuits. The only safe option is not to use these lasers, and I shall be forwarding this cautionary tale both to the manufacturer and to the appropriate UK astronomical bodies.

Onan the Clumsy
25th Mar 2005, 13:07
So how exactly does one use a laser to 'look at stars' ? Well I suppose they'd work if you could shine them onto the clouds. Oh...


tony draper
25th Mar 2005, 13:27
Didn't there used to be a law in the UK forbiding the shining of powerfull lights skywards?,doesn't seem to hold sway now we seem to have laser light displays in the sky every xmas round here.
The folks in Cornwall were fond of shining lights out to sea at one time.

25th Mar 2005, 13:38
I've seen people use ordinary flashlights to point out starts when star-gazing. I assume lasers would work the same way.

Basically, there is often enough haze or humidity in the air to let you see the path of the beam, and it's easier to follow than someone just pointing their finger in the air and saying, "Look at that star over there." (Try pointing a flashlight into the sky on a dark night -- you'll see what I mean.)

However, the best place to do star gazing is in a dark place out in the country. The place we were doing it was nowhere near an airport. (Yes, we did see airplanes flying overhead, but they were probably over 25,000 feet [edited], and almost indistinguishable from satellites.)

From that skypointer link:
The SkyPointer™ green laser pointer is a new variation_of an old idea that amateur astronomers have practiced for many years : a narrow-beam high power flashlight_has been_used to point out celestial objects. Tiny particles of dust, pollen, and_moisture_scatter back enough light from the beam to produce a visible line in the air. If the beam extends far enough, a designated location on the sky can be unambiguously pointed out._

25th Mar 2005, 13:45
Obviously neither Grainger or viz3 bother properly reading previous posts before hitting reply... :}

25th Mar 2005, 14:02
supercarb asked how astronomers used lasers to "look at stars."

You said:
Astronomers use laser pointers to point out stars in just the same way someone in a lecture hall would use one...

Basically, in a lecture hall, you see a dot ON the spot you want to draw attention to. In star gazing, you see the path of the beam of light aimed towards the subject of interest. Not "just" the same. (Which is why people use lasers, not flashlights,as pointers in lecture halls.)

Still, nothing to do with painting airplanes and helicopters and then blaming your 7-year-old daughter for it.

25th Mar 2005, 15:17
Not only that, as a North Jersey resident myself, I can tell you that there is so much light polution that there are virtually no stars in the sky. They are all washed out.

Its much worse then a full moon.

The area where these people live is only a couple of miles from Manhattan. Its like a continuous sunset with the glow of the city on the horizon.

I am not sure if the patriot act is exactly the right law on the books for it, but the law is on the books, and this person needs to be done in for it. And he's a liar.

It takes a lot of work to keep an airplane illuminated with the laser. This wasn't a casual OR a one time thing.


26th Mar 2005, 10:03
Isn't there something about use of lasers in the Geneva convention? Send him to Nuremberg!

2 Greens 1 Red!
27th Mar 2005, 09:55
Lets face it, if a guy is stood there with his daughter looking at the stars with this thing then you can bet your life it's innocent!

On the other hand, I got "lasered" in the eyes on the way into a UK airfield by a bunch of idiots waving this thing around from the passenger seat of a car.

There is surely more than one way to look at this and not just the American lawyers view! :ok:

As far as the muppets who shine their lasers at our aeroplanes are concerned, they may just need a little education......:E

27th Mar 2005, 12:58
Didn't I see this on an episode of CSI:Miami ?

Self Loading Freight
28th Mar 2005, 01:42
I was showing off my green laser pointer to my father, way out in the Cambridgeshire sticks. It was a clear and very dark night, and the laser was doing a superb job at indicating stars and other astronomical thingies. After we'd got our eyes adjusted to the conditions, he got interested in how far we could see the laser shining. There aren't many things on the Fens to shine it at, but there were enough trees, rooftops and churches a long way away to make an impressive demonstration.

Then someone turned up in something large and American, heading for one of the airbases. "Ooooh, go on! See if you can get that!". This from a chap who is (a) a vicar, (b) a PPL, (c) quite clearly keener to get to heaven rather quicker than I suspected.

I explained why it was such a bad idea... but it took a little while to sink in. It really does seem a harmless and fun gizmo until you realise.