WASHINGTON – A temporarily-blinded pilot puts hundreds of lives at risk, and the FBI believes the offer of cash may help reduce the number of cases of people pointing handheld lasers at aircraft.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a regional reward program – including in the Washington, D.C. area – that would offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone who aims a laser at a plane.
The dangerous problem is growing quickly.
Since the FBI and Federal Aviation Administration began tracking laser strikes in 2005, there has been a 1,100 percent increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft with handheld lasers.
The FBI says last year there were a total of 3,960 laser strikes reported – an average of almost 11 incidents per day.
“It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions,” says Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
Federal, state, and local law enforcement are attempting to educate teens on the dangers of lasers.
“Shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot, jeopardizing the safety of everyone on board,” says Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta.
Commercially-available handheld lasers are classified by color of light and strength.
A 2013 study of 122 laser pointers by National Institute of Standards and Technology found that nearly 90 percent of green pointers and about 44 percent of red pointers tested were out of compliance with federal safety regulations.
The Air Line Pilots Association urged lawmakers to make pointing lasers at aircraft a federal crime.
“Pointing lasers at aircraft in flight poses a serious safety risk to the traveling public,” says ALPA president Capt. Lee Moak.
The FBI program will run for 60 days in the Washington, D.C. area, as well as Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio and San Juan, Puerto Rico.