Myrtle Beach takes top spot for green laser problem

MYRTLE BEACH (WMBF) - Officials at the Myrtle Beach International Airport say Myrtle Beach has become the number one community in the country for green laser hits on commercial flights, and that is causing a major safety concern for passengers and pilots.

Myrtle Beach Airport Director Mike La Pier says Myrtle Beach has overtaken other hotspots for green laser activity like Las Vegas and Orlando.

"This year we've had over 70 in season incidents where lasers have been pointed at aircraft either arriving or departing at the airport," La Pier says. "[It] makes us the number one community in the nation is terms of laser incidents."

La Pier says the lasers can cause serious issues for pilots.

"if you're distracted by a laser and your attention goes away from the cockpit for just a moment, there's a period there where you could be in potential danger and you can put your passengers in danger as well," La Pier says.

No commercial flights have been forced to land because of green lasers in Myrtle Beach this year, but La Pier says people pointing the powerful lights at planes is a common problem in tourism hotspots. He says in the 2012 travel season, Myrtle Beach has vaulted to the top of the list.

The US Coast Guard asked Horry County Council to consider a ban after green laser hits on coast guard helicopters hampered a string of search and rescue operations over the summer.  US Coast Guard protocol mandates that pilots land and undergo a medical examination if their helicopter is struck hit by a laser.

Some travelers, like Melissa Short, say they want a ban as well.

"I don't think anyone is trying to put down a plane, but I think that there maybe should be a ban on selling them or maybe harsher penalties," Short says.

Horry County Council is scheduled to talk about the green laser problem on Tuesday during a meeting at the Horry County Government and Justice Center in Conway at 6.

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