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Hawaiian Air pilot says laser beam was aimed from Leone village

FAA is requesting a detailed report from local airport officials

The US Federal Aviation Administration has requested a detailed report from officials at the Pago Pago International Airport regarding the “laser incident” last Friday night when a Hawaiian Airlines aircraft was attempting to land.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines says the pilot reported the laser beam being fired from the Leone area.

The laser incident has sparked anger from the community on why someone would do such a thing, which jeopardized the safety of those on board the Boeing 767 plane, which Samoa News understands was carrying some 200 passengers — not including the crew.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said this week that Hawaiian Airlines has reported the laser incident to the FAA.

“We forwarded it to the Pago Pago International Airport safety officer and asked them to inform the police and get a pilot's report with details about what happened,” Gregor said from Los Angeles. He referred further inquiries to Hawaiian.

A local resident, who was a “frightened passenger” on board the flight, described the laser as “green and extremely bright”, saying “it was very alarming.”

What remains unclear — an issue of speculation since the weekend — is the area on the ground where the laser came from. Some have assumed it came from around the Tualauta area — from one of the villages in the flight path of the landing jet — while others alleged it was further out on the Western side of Tutuila.

“The pilot reported that a bright green laser was pointed at our aircraft about 9:38 local time from the village of Leone. He reported that the laser lasted approximately one minute,” Hawaiian spokesperson Ann Botticelli told Samoa News yesterday in the latest update from the airline.

Department of Port Administration’s Airport Manager, Tavita Fuimaono told Samoa News on Monday that an airport safety officer was notified of the laser incident around 10:27p.m Friday by the local Hawaiian Air station manager and this was about 30 minutes after the plane’s arrival. (See Samoa News Jan. 23rd edition for details.)

The last known laser incident involving a Hawaiian flight while landing at the Tafuna Airport was in the latter part of March 2011.

When asked if FAA had any data on this type of incident happening in Pago Pago, Gregor said, “Our 2017 and 2016 laser reports don't show any reports for Pago Pago International Airport or American Samoa.”

“However, the report might only include events at airports in the 50 states plus Puerto Rico,” he added.

Local officials have noted the need for people to understand that aiming a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime and it's very dangerous.

According to federal law, enacted in 2012, it’s Illegal to aim laser pointer beams at an aircraft or their flight path. Penalty for violating this law is up to 5 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.