Earlier in the year, the FBI was seeing an increasing number of teens using laser pointers to blind pilots in flight. You wouldn’t think the pointer could reach a cockpit in flight, but it can. In fact, lasers may reach a target up to one mile away. When aimed at cockpits, the lasers can blind pilots, creating unsafe conditions in the cockpit/aircraft they are operating. As of December 2013, the FAA had documented at least 35 incidents where pilots required medical attention after a laser strike.
To crack down on this increasing trend, the FBI is expanding its trial program, aimed at deterring people from pointing lasers at aircraft—by rewarding those who provide information about individuals who engage in this dangerous crime and aggressively prosecuting the perpetrators.
A key part of the publicity campaign is reward money. The FBI will offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.
In the meantime, the FBI is working with state, local, and international law enforcement on the campaign, and are conducting outreach to schools to educate teens about the dangers associated with lasing. The original initiative, which began nearly four months ago, took place in 12 FBI field offices where “lasing” incidents are prevalent. Since then, there has been a 19 percent decrease in the number of reported incidents in the major metropolitan areas of those offices.
Interfering with the operation of an aircraft has long been a federal crime, but in 2012, a new law made it a felony to knowingly point the beam of a laser at an aircraft. The new law lowered the threshold for prosecution and the trend is on the rise for jail time in these cases.
To learn more about the FBI’s campaign and lasing, please visit http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/june/protecting-aircraft-from-lasers-trial-program-being-expanded-nationwide.