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FAA Issues Warning That Holiday Display Lights May Distract, Blind Pilots

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The FAA is warning homeowners about the danger of popular laser light displays.

The colorful laser lights that shine a holiday display on the side of your home could put pilots at risk.

If they're aimed too high, they can send laser lights into the cockpit and potentially blind pilots.

The FAA says each holiday season for the past several years they've received reports from pilots who say they were distracted for temporarily blinded by the residential laser-lights.

In 2015 a flight crew near Dallas that was hit by the light 22 miles away.

"The light rays stay parallel over long distances, so that same amount of light you see hitting the wall can hit that pilot even though the pilot is thousands of feet in the air," said ophthalmology surgeon Dr. Kevin Clark.

Clark says the power of the laser isn't strong enough to hurt the pilots as they fly briefly through its beam.

"But we're worried about the distraction factor," he said. "If a pilot sees a light like that, he might become disoriented."

And there's a lingering impact.

"If they look at a red beam, for example, they are going to see a green after-image for up to 30 seconds or a minute," Clark said. "So they may see lights that aren't there."

The FAA says if you're going to install the holiday laser-light systems to make sure the lights are hitting your house and not shining into the sky.

If the FAA becomes aware of a situation where laser-lights displays are affecting pilots they will ask homeowners to turn them off.

But if the laser-lights are repeatedly affecting pilots despite previous warnings, a homeowner could face and FAA civil penalty.


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