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Laser allegedly pointed at jets

May 23, 2008|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

A parolee faces state and federal charges after allegedly aiming a laser device at three commercial airplanes landing at John Wayne Airport on Wednesday night.

Dana Welch, 36, of Orange was arrested Thursday morning and is suspected of pointing a powerful green beam at planes being flown by Alaska, United and Delta airlines about 10:40 p.m.

A Costa Mesa police helicopter crew trying to find the light's source also reported the laser being flashed into their cockpit while they were over an Orange neighborhood.

Police searched an area near Prospect Street and Palmyra Avenue and spoke to Welch, who is on parole for drug and weapons charges. He denied knowledge of the incident, said Orange Police Sgt. Dan Adams.

Investigators arrested Welch on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft in violation of state law. Police said they found two laser devices in Welch's house.

Welch could also face as many as four federal counts of interfering with a pilot's ability to land, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

The planes targeted by the laser were Alaska Airlines Flight 518 from Seattle, United Airlines Flight 473 from Chicago and Delta Air Lines Flight 1483 from Atlanta, officials said.

The incident follows similar laser-flashing cases in Orange County last year and is part of a growing problem nationwide. The Federal Aviation Administration reported 600 cases in 2007, up from 290 in 2005; 300 have been reported so far this year.

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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