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'Picking The Wrong Target': Lasers Causing Major Risk To Colorado Pilots

(CBS4) - When the sun goes down, the lasers come out across Colorado. It has first responders feeling like they have a target on their cockpits.

Flight for Life crews say helicopters are being hit by lasers from the ground on almost every night flight across Colorado. They say it has got to stop.

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"We are being tagged by lasers on virtually every leg of a flight after dark," Kathleen Mayer, program director Flight for Life, told CBS4 Monday.

The scary reality these flight crews face in Colorado's skies isn't a new problem. It's something they are seeing far too often.

"When it hits the cockpit, it's like a huge flash bulb going off inside. It blinds everyone temporarily," Mayer said.

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Federal law forbids pointing lasers at aircraft, but the threat of heavy fines and jail time isn't stopping people from targeting helicopters.

"There are a lot of risks in the environment. The weather is certainly one of them, but this one is absolutely preventable," Mayer said.

The blinding light causes pilots to land prematurely, even forcing them off the job with temporary vision problems.

Officials say they more lasers in the winter.

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"We see an uptick right after the holidays. I think people get the lasers for Christmas gifts and want to try them out, but they are absolutely picking the wrong target when they hit an aircraft," Mayer said.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the lasers are coming from, but every time this happens Flight for Life reports the strike to the FBI. Denver police also keep a database of reports of laser strikes for the state.

"We made six reports in December alone," said Mayer.

There currently isn't a state law on lasers and aircraft. It's something many aviators are hoping they can get lawmakers to change.

There are efforts behind the scenes to do just that happening during this year's legislative session.

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