Man Sentenced for Aiming Laser Pointer at an Aircraft
WILMINGTON, NC—United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that today in federal court, Senior United States District Judge James C. Fox sentenced CHRISTOPHER LEE FUNK, 35, of Concord, North Carolina to five years’ probation and 200 hours of community service.
FUNK was named in an indictment charging him with knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in flight (a helicopter), in violation of the provisions of Title 18, United States Code, Section 39A. On May 11, 2015, FUNK pleaded guilty to this charge.
According to the investigation, on May 6, 2014, at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport in Oak Island, North Carolina, a student pilot and flight instructor was completing a nighttime cross country training flight in a helicopter. At approximately 12:10 a.m., as the student was attempting a practice landing as part of his training, the helicopter cockpit was struck with a green laser.
FUNK, who at the time was outside a residence near the airport, aimed the beam of a hand-held laser at the helicopter and maintained the beam on the cockpit as it descended from about 600 feet. When the laser hit the acrylic bubble windscreen, the beam refracted and lit up the cockpit with bright green light, making it very difficult to see both inside and outside the cockpit. The student was able to maintain control of the helicopter and land safely land on the runway.
The student needed to make another landing for his training, so to avoid the area where the laser appeared to originate, the instructor and student attempted to land further away, at the southern end of the runway. However, Funk again aimed the laser at the helicopter, striking the cockpit and blinding the student and instructor. The student was able to land safely, and the instructor immediately reported the incident to local law enforcement.
With the instructor’s assistance, officers with the Oak Island Police Department were able to determine the area within a residential neighborhood next to the airport where the laser originated. Officers approached the residence and encountered FUNK, and he admitted that he may have shined the laser at the helicopter. The laser device was seized by officers after it was turned over by another individual at the residence.
The case was investigated by the Oak Island Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Eric D. Goulian prosecuted the case for the government.