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

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

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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