"Star Shower" is a plug-in laser light projector that promises to make your home sparkle when the sun goes down, a "better way" to ring in the winter holidays.
The popular decoration definitely adds a festive look. But investigators say that on the night of Wednesday, November 18, lights from a Star Shower projector shined straight into the cockpit of a C130 coast guard plane as it flew over Sacramento — prompting the crew to report the incident to police.
Police officers asked the homeowner who had installed the projector to be more careful.
Laser beams — even the ones that come from a small pen-shaped light — can momentarily blind a pilot — with potentially devastating results.
Sgt. Morrie Zager, who flies helicopters for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, has experienced the hazard firsthand.
"You experience what's called a flash blindness," he said. "Everything goes away except green. The worst part about it is the pain. It can cause anything from a mild distraction to a complete incapacitation of the pilot resulting in the aircraft crashing."
The "star shower" website and packaging include a warning that says "lasers should not be projected at or within the flight path of an aircraft within ten nautical miles of an airport." In the Sacramento case — police found the homeowner's action to be an innocent mistake — but after the NBC4 I-Team showed Sgt. Zager the "star shower" commercial — he says anyone who buys the decoration should use extreme caution.
"I would be very wary of having that item pointed into the sky because it could conceivably have the same negative affects to pilots as one of the single pen light lasers," Zager said.
Star Shower makers told the NBC4 I-Team its product is compliant with Federal Aviation Administration regulations governing lasers — but emphasized that the decoration should be pointed directly at your home, never directly into the sky.
Zager said laser strikes go up every holiday season, because people get the little pen lights as gifts. Anyone caught pointing a laser at a plane or chopper could face prison time and more than a quarter-million dollars in fines.
At 8:59 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, a Star Showers spokeswoman requested that NBC4 publish this updated statement:
We always encourage our consumers to read the instructions for the Star Shower Laser Lights included in each package.
Star Shower Laser Lights operate by taking a single laser beam and diffracting it into thousands of individual laser beams. Each beam emitted by Star Shower is much lower in power than a typical laser pointer.
Each individual laser beam is 10 times less than the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) allowed by the FAA normal flight zone (NFZ) criteria.
The product is compliant with FDA regulations governing lasers and with Consumer Product Safety standards.
Millions of satisfied customers are enjoying Star Shower Laser Lights for the holidays and we continue to receive wonderful feedback since we have begun selling the product.
Earlier Star Shower statement: Star Shower Laser Lights are compliant with FDA regulations governing lasers and with Consumer Product Safety standards. Consumers should carefully read and follow directions in our instruction sheet and our website to assure the full enjoyment and safety of our product. Star Shower should be pointed directly at your home, never directly into the sky. To position your Star Shower at the optimal angle, please refer to our instruction sheet for the recommended distance-to-surface ratio to cover your intended surface. Lasers should not be projected at or within the flight path of an aircraft within 10 nautical miles of an airport. If your intended surface is within 10 nautical miles of an airport, lower the angle of the Star Shower so that no lasers point into the sky.