Lasers directed at aircraft can disorient and temporarily blind pilots:
If you’ve ever thought about pointing a hand-held laser at an aircraft of any kind, think again. It’s highly dangerous and a federal crime.
The number of laser attacks in the U.S. is on the rise. Incidents are projected to reach 3,700 this year—compared to just 283 in 2005. That’s a rise of more than 1,100 percent. And that doesn’t include the thousands of attacks that go unreported every year.
George Johnson, a supervisory federal air marshal who is a liaison officer with the FBI, says the number of attacks is almost reaching an “epidemic level.”
A suspect directing a laser pointer at a helicopter is arrested by police on the ground:
In recent years, technology has improved the performance and power of handheld lasers; the Internet has also made these gadgets cheaper and easier to purchase.
These incidents are dangerous to pilots in the cockpit, passengers aboard the plane, and people on the ground. Captain Robert Hamilton of the Air Line Pilots Association, International was landing a plane when he was struck by a laser light. “I had temporary blindness. My eyes were burning. It caused disorientation, and it was distracting,” he says.
Those who aim a laser pointer at an aircraft can be prosecuted under two federal statutes. A law put into effect this year makes pointing a laser at an aircraft a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $11,000 per violation. Under a law already on the books, those who interfere with the operation of an aircraft can receive up to 20 years in prison and be fined $250,000.
“Use a laser pointer for what it’s made for. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is dangerous and reckless. Just don’t do it,” says Johnson.
To report a laser attack, dial 911. You can also e-mail the Federal Aviation Administration at laserreports@FAA.gov or contact your nearest FBI field office.