Pilot Complaints Cite Christmas Light Displays

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At least two pilots in the last week have lodged complaints about laser light in the cockpit that was traced back to a Christmas light display, raising concerns about the popular displays, according to media reports. Authorities found the source of laser light that affected a mail pilot near Mason County Airport in western Michigan last week was a home display set up outdoors and aimed at the side of a barn. The light reflected into the sky directly across the airplane’s flight path, authorities said. In Dallas, an American Airlines 737 crew reported a laser strike at 13,000 feet that also was traced to a holiday display.

The consumer displays project stars and other patterns onto houses and lawns, and are growing in popularity due to their ease of installation compared to traditional electric lights. A story this weekend posted at northjersey.com called the $40 displays “the hottest trend in holiday lighting,” and noted that the local home stores already had sold out. One manufacturer says at its website the lights from the display “diminish and become nonexistent after 850 feet.” The lasers shouldn’t be used within one mile of an airport, according to the website. The popular “Star Shower” brand comes with a warning not to point it toward the sky if you’re within 10 nm of an airport, according to KWCH in Wichita.