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Attacked by Lasers: An Airline Pilot Encounters a Dangerous Game Over Mexico

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by Mitchell “Taco” Bell

Taco” is a retired Marine KC-130 pilot flying for a major airline on the B-737. Here’s what he encountered while flying into Mexico.

Guadalajara, MX? Yeah, the law there is optional.

That is the best comment about having a seemingly coordinated attack on a civilian airliner on approach into Guadalajara, Mexico the other night.  Those green lasers that can point out the aliens on the moon are a real danger to aviation or anyone who catches a glimpse directly at them.  It was a Tom Clancy book where I read about the first laser attack on a plane.  Mind you that was a commercial military grade laser used in that fictional attack and written 30 years ago. 

Today, we have powerful green laser made in China that costs maybe five bucks. (I bought a couple in Shanghai but couldn’t trust the kids not to point them at a plane in the sky, so in my drawer they sit.) They are the size of a small flashlight, and the beam goes forever. 

A map of the arrival into GDL. The numbers show where the jerks were up on the hillside shooting lasers at the plane.

Friday night, the end of a long day, I’m flying down to Guadalajara with a brand new student, hell only his second landing in the Boeing 737, so it was very busy inside the flight deck.  The airport elevation there is about 5,000 and the surrounding little mountains are roughly 8,000 feet, with us arriving just a couple thousand feet above them.  

The first laser hit from the left and tracked the plane for about 30 seconds.

I announced: “Lasers, do not look out the window,” and told him to cup his spare hand to the side of his eye.  

The autopilot was still engaged at this point. The cockpit turned a greenish color as the beam hit the side windows. This was followed by someone up on a ridge line hitting us with another beam on his side.

We are moving at 200 Kias, roughly 220 miles an hour, and pass by pretty quickly.  Unlike attacks down in São Paulo where they are pointing up at us as we climb away, these attacks were almost level with the aircraft as we descended down into this sort of valley of terrain.  

Two were from side to side, followed by one directly in front that lit up the top of our cockpit as it was way lower and not up on a mountain.  

Then hits four and five were again on adjacent hills as we turned on final.

READ MORE from Taco about serving in Iraq.

I reported the laser attacks to ATC, but never heard them give warnings to the other aircraft behind us.  From what I have heard from friends, this is a common deal down there and must be considered a great sport as you drink beer and try to blind the pilots.  Must be pretty common that it’s almost expected.  

You can’t wear any laser googles, as you need to see the readouts on the glass in front of you.  Turning the lights out is another possible solution but flying so low on approach, it just adds another element of distraction to an already very busy time.  About the only thing you can do is avoid looking in their direction, slumping down a bit in the seat and putting your hand up to your eye like the blinders they put on a horse. 

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Now the Marine in me would love to hire a bunch of Vets, put them in the window seats, armed with two lasers themselves and fire back some green energy at the source of the attacks.  That would be pretty awesome, give them a taste of it.

In the states they take these attacks pretty seriously and folks have been arrested for it.  So easy for the police helicopter to follow the source of this bright green beam down to the earth.  

If they get a good hit, the pilots are blinded, no other pilots in the back, the plane hits a mountain heaven forbid, or the pilots are incapacitated due to retina burns, would the charges be attempted homicide of 175 people? Makes me angry, and I would love nothing more than to blaze their brains with one as payback just so they know how dangerous this game is. 

Semper Fi, Taco.

Mitch “Taco” Bell is a retired Marine KC-130 pilot flying for a major airline on the B-737. You can watch his Tall Tales with Taco Bell on Facebook and YouTube. His past stories can be found on The Sandgram.

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