Area Man's Arrest Illuminates America's Dumbest Pastime: Shining Lasers at Planes

Photo illustration Times Square photo credit/Boeing 747-700 credit

Update, 3/17/15 5:21 p.m.
Elehecer Balaguer was charged in federal court today with one count of aiming a laser at an aircraft. A press release from the office of Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, said Balaguer surrendered to FBI agents Monday morning, and on Tuesday, he reportedly told a judge that he has struggled with addiction and mental health problems, including bipolar disorder, for years. He faces a sentence of up to five years in prison if convicted.

Update, 3/14/15 1:09 p.m.
The full-grown man who pointed a laser at several aircraft earlier this week may not be Frank Egan after all. At a scheduled court appearance for Egan on Friday, his roommate, fellow area man Elehecer Balaguer, reportedly came forward and confessed that it was he who had purchased the laser pointer in Florida, brought it back to New York City, and engaged in the pastime known as lasing. According to the Wall Street Journal, Balaguer will turn himself in to the FBI on Monday. Meantime, Egan is free on bail. Balaguer is a full-grown man of 54, BTW.

Original story follows:

When the NYPD arrested a full-grown man in the Bronx for shining a laser pointer at several aircraft bound for LaGuardia — and, for good measure, at a police helicopter — earlier this week, you probably thought: What a moron!

It might not have crossed your mind that Schuylerville resident Frank Egan's alleged prank is only the tip of the laser pointer, as it were.

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Friendly Skies Flight Diversion Over Knee Defender an Airline First?

Categories: Air Travel, Beefs

The Knee Defender, a device marketed to airline passengers fed up with fellow fliers who hog their legroom by reclining, has been around for more than 10 years.

But the low-tech gadget appears to have registered a first yesterday morning, when United Airlines diverted a Newark-to-Denver flight to Chicago after a knee defender and his target got into a physical altercation.

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The Port Authority is Fully Aware That LaGuardia Sucks, Joe Biden

Screenshot via.
Biden contemplates going to the airport.
Earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden visited adorable proto-city Philadelphia, where he talked about the importance of rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. Mostly, though, he bagged on LaGuardia Airport, noting, accurately, that it's dirty and old and filled with unsettling, yellow-tinted flooring and ancient, clanking baggage claims, like something out of the beginning of an airport-themed Saw movie.

"I've traveled 800,000 miles since being Vice President," he told the crowd. "If I blindfolded someone and took them at two o'clock in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said, 'Where do you think you are?,' they'd say, 'This must be America. It's a modern airport. If I blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you'd think, "I must be in some third-world country."

"I'm not joking," he added, when polite, nervous laughter rippled though the room. (And actually, Joe Biden merrily blindfolding someone in the dead of night and dragging them to the world's various airports to prove a point about infrastructure does sound possible, now that he mentions it.)

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The JFK AirTrain Will Have Very Unreliable Service for Six Weeks

Photo Credit: Pro-Zak via Compfight cc
For those of you in the international jet set, this is surely raw news: The JFK AirTrain is going to have intermittent service for the next six weeks. The Port Authority is shutting down the tracks at various times over the fall to make necessary repairs to the tracks.

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JetBlue Refuses to Let Hindu Man Board Flight During Ramadan, Concerned About His "Disposition"

Air travel has become such a nightmare that it's hard to muster any surprise about the hassles and indignities travelers face on a regular basis.

Excruciatingly long lines, invasive pat-downs, awkward luggage inspections, delays, cancelations--and, oh yeah, racial profiling--are all pretty much accepted as par for the course.

Aditya Mukerjee, who lives and works in New York and is Hindu, not Muslim, wrote about a particularly awful experience he had at JFK recently in blog post titled "Don't Fly During Ramadan."

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Woman Gets Through Security At JFK With Dagger In Her Bag

Well, this is heartening terrifying news for anyone who plans on traveling through JFK in the near future. A woman got through security in Terminal 5 with a dagger in her bag, the New York Post reported. Nope, TSA people, you weren't hallucinating à la Macbeth. It was an actual antique dagger, which the woman, 26-year-old Gabrielle Olsen of Washington Heights, told police was given to her by her father for protection.

And it's not like Olsen hadn't caught the TSA's eye. Before the TSA noticed the dagger they confiscated a bottle of liquid from Olsen. Then -- after she passed through the checkpoint -- they noticed the pointy thing on "a screening-machine X-ray."

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Sen. Chuck Schumer Wants to Stop TSA's Inappropriate Behavior

You know how annoying it is when you have to take off your shoes and your belt at the airport and then security touches you, and you just feel kind of uncomfortable? Well, Sen. Chuck Schumer feels your pain, and he hopes to make it a lot easier for passengers to complain.

With a new legislation proposal, Schumer is responding to some incidents that were actually a bit more serious than an uncomfortable touch. In December, three elderly women came forward with claims that they were strip-searched by Transportation Security Administration officers at JFK airport -- and recent reports allege that TSA officials have inappropriately harassed women passing through security.

Let's take Lenore Zimmerman, for example. She's a tiny, 85-year-old Long Island grandmother who says she was brought into a private room and forced to take off her clothes on her way to a flight to Fort Lauderdale.

Or Ruth Sherman, 88, who said that TSA agents made her strip so they could inspect her colostomy bag.

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New York Airports Are Good At Making People Late

It wasn't too long ago we brought you the latest report on how New York's airports suck. Well, today we have some more good news from the New York Times . The paper reports that the airspace that includes JFK, LaGuardia and Newark (as well as Jersey's Teterboro Airport and Philadelphia International Airport) "accounted for nearly half of all delays in the nation" in the first half of 2011. Meanwhile, those airports were only responsible for 12 percent of domestic flights. Yikes.

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New York City Airports Are the Best at Being the Worst

We win! Once again, you guys! New York City airports are liked by few but used by many, which makes them generally problematic to all. According to Frommer's, and they know from travel, JFK is the worst of the worst, with La Guardia and Newark (which is, apparently, "dull" -- isn't that actually sort of good in an airport?) not doing too much better. Why so much airport haterade? Well...

All three major New York City airports are on this list, in large part because they're run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a hideously mismanaged money sink that does a poor job of responding to air travelers' needs.
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The TSA Has $400,000 of America's Hard-Earned Spare Change in Its Clutches

Have a bunch of spare change that you've left in your drawer or in a bag under your bed, waiting for that rainy day (or a clear, sunny day, because that would be better for transportation purposes) in which you are so bored that you decide to lug it to a CoinStar machine and get real, spendable dollars for it? Wait no longer. Instead of lugging it to the CoinStar, put it in your pockets and head out for JFK airport. (Wear a belt, coins are heavy.) When you arrive at security, along with taking off your shoes, turning over your snowglobe, uncasing your laptop and putting it in its individual bin, and all of the other things you do, put your spare change in a bin as well. Then, set it and forget it! Or, collect your items except for the change and go on your merry way to West Palm Beach, Florida.

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