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Missoula man gets probation after pointing laser at plane

February 26, 2021 GMT

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Missoula man has been sentenced to three years of probation after aiming a laser pointer at an airplane last year as it approached the Grand Falls International Airport in northern Montana.

Brian John Loven, 42, was sentenced Thursday after he pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft in October, the Missoulian reported.

“It is important for the public to understand that pointing any laser, even a small one, at the cockpit of an aircraft can obscure the pilot’s view and jeopardize the safe operations of the aircraft,” acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.

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Prosecutors said two pilots reported a bright green laser lit up the cockpit while the aircraft was descending March 3 around 9:40 p.m. near Giant Springs State Park. No injuries were reported.

Cascade County sheriff’s deputies responded to the report and found a Jeep, where Loven was a passenger, driving slowly through the parking lot of Heritage Park, which was closed. The driver told deputies she was learning how to drive a manual transmission car. Deputies then noticed the laser in the center cup holder.

Police said Loven then told deputies he shined the laser but didn’t know it was a federal offense and he wanted to “test out the distance of the laser.”

The law that criminalized aiming a laser beam at an airplane was passed as part of the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.