Release #09.068
September 18, 2009

Pilots Commend Sentencing for Laser Attack

WASHINGTON – The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), applauds the recent sentencing of a man convicted of interfering with the safe operation of an aircraft by shining a green laser at an airliner and a helicopter in flight near Sacramento International Airport in March 2009.

On Sept. 8, 2009, a federal judge in California sentenced Balltazar Valladares of Roseville, California, to three years and one month in federal prison upon his conviction. Valladares admitted to police that, on the night of March 16, 2009, he had shined a laser into the night sky in the vicinity of the Sacramento International Airport and that he directed it at an airborne law enforcement helicopter. The police aboard the helicopter at the time were investigating an earlier report by an airline pilot that his aircraft had been lasered during landing at Sacramento International.

“Shining lasers at aircraft in flight is a serious crime that jeopardizes safety and should be punished accordingly,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “ALPA commends the law enforcement agencies that helped apprehend and prosecute the individual involved in this case, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Air Marshal Service, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney, as well as the judge for his strong sentencing.”

The Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the Roseville Police Department, assisted with identifying the individual responsible and conducting the prosecution. In August, ALPA’s National Security Committee sponsored a presentation by the FBI and the FAMS on this case. The Association has worked closely with these law enforcement agencies, lending its support to their efforts.

“ALPA has long advocated for prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law those individuals who jeopardize passengers, crews, and cargo by shining lasers at aircraft,” said Capt. Robb Powers, ALPA’s National Security Chairman. “This outcome should serve as a warning to others who may be tempted to endanger aircraft safety with lasers that doing so comes at a very high price.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union, representing nearly 53,500 pilots at 36 airlines in the United States and Canada.


Contact: Linda Shotwell, 703/481-4440 or