Dana Christian Welch has the unusual distinction of being the first person in the nation to be convicted of interfering with pilots by aiming lasers at their planes. As a result, the 37 year-old Orange County man will spend 2 1/2 years in federal prison.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherilyn Peace Garnett, Welch aimed a laser beam at two Boeing 7-series jets as the pilots were about to land at John Wayne Airport. The first plane, a United Airlines jet, was carrying more than 180 passengers and crew members. The second, operated by Alaska Airlines, was carrying more than 80 people.
The laser beam struck a United pilot in the eye, causing "flash blindness," Garnett said.
Local news from across Southern California
When Welch pointed the laser at the Alaska plane, one pilot ducked under a glare shield and the other pilot delayed a critical turn necessary to land the plane.
While several people across the country have pleaded guilty to federal charges of pointing lasers at aircraft, Welch was the first to be convicted of interfering with pilots by beaming lasers at their planes, the U.S. Attorney's Office noted.