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FBI Says Lasers Pointed at Aircraft Nearly Doubled in 2010


What appears as a dot of light on the ground can illuminate an entire cockpit, disorienting a pilot or causing temporary blindness/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

People pointing hand-held lasers at aircraft — an act that can temporarily blind or disorient a pilot —  nearly doubled in 2010 compared to the year before, the FBI says.

The FBI reported that in 2009 there were 1,489 laser incidents recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration compared to 2,836 in 2010, or an average of more than seven incidents daily.

In releasing the stats, the FBI cited Justin Stouder as an example.

The 24-year-old pointed a laser from his Suburban St. Louis yard at a helicopter last year and was arrested.

“It’s equivalent to a flash of a camera if you were in a pitch black car at night,” said St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer Doug Reinholz, the pilot on patrol that night when Stouder’s green hand-held laser “painted” his cockpit, according to an FBI press release.

“It’s a temporary blinding to the pilot,” he said during a recent news conference highlighting the danger of lasers directed at airplanes and helicopters.

The penalties are stiff.

Interfering with the operation of an aircraft carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Since the FBI and Federal Aviation Administration began keeping records of laser events in 2004, “there has been an exponential increase every year,” said Tim Childs from the Federal Air Marshal Service, who serves as a liaison officer with the Bureau on laser issues.

The overwhelming number of the incidents involve green lasers—especially dangerous because the human eye is most susceptible to damage from the yellow-green light spectrum, the FBI said.

In the St. Louis case, Justin Stouder said at a news conference, according to the FBI: “I had no idea it illuminated the whole cockpit and blinded everybody inside…It was really a selfish mistake.”

FBI Shows Arrest of Someone Pointing a Laser

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