Man Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Pointing a Laser at a Delta Air Jet

A man was sentenced to two years in prison on Thursday after entering a guilty plea to using a laser to target an airplane. Nicholas James Link, 43, of Rochester, Minnesota, asserted at his sentence hearing that it wasn't well known that aiming a laser at airplanes was risky. The judge dismissed Link's defense and mentioned his "extensive" criminal background, which included several domestic assaults. Judge William M. Conley claimed that Link's conduct put everyone on the Delta flight in "great peril."


Link was discovered by a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter and local law enforcement on October 29, 2021, after the two pilots of the Delta-operated Airbus A319 from Raleigh-Durham to Minneapolis reported the "laser strike" during their approach for landing at Minneapolis - Saint Paul International Airport (MSP). The aircraft was barely 9,000 feet in the air when air traffic control abruptly instructed the pilots to change their landing approach to a different runway. At that moment, the flight deck abruptly flashed three times with a vivid blue light.

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The district attorney's office alleged in a statement issued following Link's sentence that the laser impacts "created a huge distraction in the cockpit as they were unable to look at their iPads to brief the new approach." The Captain, an experienced pilot with 28 years of airline experience at the time of the event, had right-eye vision issues for a number of hours after the incident.

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The Captain said in a statement given to the court that after the laser strike, "one minor mistake during this critical phase could have led to catastrophic results." A dark room's lights were abruptly turned on by the laser strike, according to him. At the time of the event, the First Officer was meant to be using his iPad to brief the new strategy, but he instead used it to shield his eyes from the light, leaving his eyesight unaltered. Link's acts, according to US Attorney Timothy M. O'Shea for the Western District of Wisconsin, "caused a severe safety threat to the safety of the crew and all passengers on board the aircraft." The Minnesota State Police helicopter was sent to the location after the pilots reported a laser strike, and it too was hit by the blue light. The local police were able to apprehend Link when the pilots gave them directions to his position, and they did so after seeing a blue laser on him. 

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Source: Crew Room

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