Having put passengers in “great peril,” a man who used a laser to target a Delta Air Lines plane has been jailed for his crime.
The man was sentenced to two years in prison by a federal judge in Wisconsin on Thursday for the event that took place in 2021.
In January of this year, Rochester, Minnesota resident James Link, 43, entered a guilty plea to shoot the laser at the aircraft.
The pilots of a Delta Air Lines flight from Raleigh-Durham to Minneapolis reported being hit by a laser three times on October 29, 2021. They claimed that while they were passing just west of River Falls, Wisconsin, at an altitude of 9,000 feet, a blue laser illuminated the cockpit.
The Independent confirms the news on their official Twitter account:
The laser “caused a major distraction in the cockpit as they were unable to look at their iPads to brief the new approach,” according to a statement from the US attorney’s office in Madison that was made public by the Justice Department. The pilots at the time than instructed air traffic control to change runways.
One of the captains said that his right eye’s vision was impaired for several hours following the incident, but the plane made a safe landing.
A Minnesota State Patrol aircraft was requested by air traffic control to investigate the event, but when it hovered above River Falls that same night, its pilots were also hit by a blue laser.
Laser Pointer Puts Plane in Danger
Prosecutors claimed that by using the aircraft’s surveillance tools, they were able to locate the suspect, work with local law police, and keep an eye on the defendant until authorities approached him.
The flight’s captain remarked on the “sheer brightness” of the laser in a statement to the court and likened it to “suddenly turning on all the lights in a dark room” when they were in a crucial stage of the flight operations.
“[A] slight error at this crucial time could have resulted in catastrophic effects,” the skipper told the jury.
The act of pointing the laser at the airplane, according to US district judge William M. Conley, was “extremely unsafe and reckless” and put “everyone on the aircraft in terrible danger.”
Link’s “extensive criminal record,” which the court mentioned, also includes “several domestic assaults” and an instance from 2017 in which he “shone and strobed a portable flashlight in the arresting officer’s eyes.”
According to Federal Aviation Administration data, the number of instances of planes and helicopters colliding with lasers reached a new high in 2021, up 41% from the year before.
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