A Concord man has been sentenced after pleading guilty to pointing a laser at a helicopter student pilot who was practicing a landing at an Oak Island airport.
Christopher Lee Funk, 35, was sentenced to five years of probation in U.S. District Court on Wednesday for a federal charge of aiming the beam of a laser pointer to an aircraft in flight, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office Spokesman Don Connelly. Funk was indicted on the charge and pleaded guilty on May 11. He was also ordered to serve 200 hours of community service as part of his sentence.
The incident occurred on May 6, 2014, at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport, 4019 Long Beach Road, in the Oak Island area, according to the investigation.
A student pilot and flight instructor were completing a nighttime cross country training flight, when at approximately 12:10 a.m. the helicopter cockpit was struck by a laser as the student was attempting a practice landing, Connelly said.
Funk, who was reportedly outside a residence near the airport, aimed the beam of a hand-held laser at the helicopter and maintained the beam on the cockpit as it descended from about 600 feet, Connelly said. When the laser hit the acrylic bubble windscreen, the beam refracted and lit up the cockpit with bright green light, making it very difficult to see both inside and outside the cockpit.
The student was able to maintain control of the helicopter and safely land on the runway. But the student needed to make another landing for his training.
“To avoid the area where the laser appeared to originate, the instructor and student attempted to land further away, at the southern end of the runway. However, Funk again aimed the laser at the helicopter, striking the cockpit and blinding the student and instructor,” Connelly said.
The student was able to land safely again. Immediately after the second incident, the instructor contacted law enforcement. With the instructor’s assistance, Oak Island police were able to determine the area where the laser originated. Officers found Funk at a home near the airport, and seized the laser device, which was turned over by another individual at the home.
The case was investigated by the Oak Island Police Department and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric D. Goulian prosecuted the case for the government.