Police pilot describes being blinded in cockpit

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix man faces charges of endangerment after police say he shined a laser pointer into a police helicopter with three officers inside.

Suspect Ralph Rubi was arrested at his home on Sheridan Street Tuesday.  Police say his laser pointer was found inside his home.

Phoenix police pilot John Meche wasn’t a victim in this latest case, but he knows the feeling all too well.

“The entire cockpit is lit up,” said Officer Meche.  “You cannot see anything while it’s coming through.”

He describes it as disorienting, painful, highly dangerous, and criminal.

“You will go to jail,” said Meche, especially if you target a police helicopter, as in Tuesday’s case.
“Why would you want to endanger the lives of the people trying to help you and people on the ground?” asked Meche.

It’s a problem that’s been on the rise in recent years.  Meche told 3TV it’s not just law enforcement being targeted but commercial aircraft as well.

“We get reports from Sky Harbor nightly that the jetliners are being hit," said Meche.  "Believe it or not, it makes it up into those cockpits when they're at 5 or 6,000 feet, it does the exact same things to those crews, but now, you have how many passengers on board?"

In 2011, the FAA imposed civil penalties against anyone who points a laser into an aircraft, which can result in hefty fines.  That’s in addition to state laws making it illegal.