New York man arrested for pointing laser at Army National Guard helicopter

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New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen of the 24th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (CST) fly on a UH-60 Black Hawk operated by 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, during a collective training event at the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Facility, New York, May 2, 2018

(U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Harley Jelis)

Suspected of pointing a laser at an Army National Guard helicopter on Wednesday night, Robert Simione, 72, of Mount Sinai, was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for reckless endangerment, Suffolk County police said.


Wearing night goggles, which intensify light, the crew were on a routine training mission in their UH-60 helicopter, said Eric Durr, spokesman, New York Army National Guard, by telephone. The Army calls that model, made by Sikorsky, the Black Hawk.

Using their GPS system, "They basically just took a lock on where the beam was coming from and reported it to the police," he said.

The Town of Islip reported the crime around 9:45 p.m. while the helicopter was flying about 10 miles northeast of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, the police said in a statement early Thursday.

A police aviation section helicopter helped determine the laser beam came from a Shore Road residence, the police said, offering no further details.

Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft has been a federal crime since 2012, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's website. This happened more than 5,600 times last year, it says.

The national guard requires its pilots to file a minimum number of hours every year with night goggles, Durr said.

That equipment can magnify the potential danger of a laser beam. The beams also can disrupt a pilot's focus.

"Laser light can be damaging to anybody's eyes," Durr said. "If you're flying, obviously anything that might distract you from what you are trying to do is a danger."

Laser beams can travel considerable distances; any dirt or even small flaws in an aircraft's windshield can worsen the glare, experts said.

Simione's arraignment has yet to be scheduled.

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