Maybe it was a full moon or maybe all the dolts just came out at once, but the Federal Aviation Administration reported that lasers hit nearly two dozen aircraft across the US last night. Sadly the average number of laser strikes on aircraft is about 16 per day.
The FAA said three laser strikes were reported in the New York City/Newark, N.J early in the evening, followed by three incidents in Texas, where jets were struck while preparing to land at Dallas Love Field. By late evening, pilots reported laser incidents in cities from Dallas to Los Angeles and San Juan.
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport didn’t record a laser strike last night but it leads the nation with about 140 reports per month.
“None of the pilots reported injuries. Nevertheless, shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime that the U.S. vigorously pursues. Lasers distract pilots from their safety duties and can lead to temporary blindness during critical phases of flight, such as takeoff and landing. In some cases in the past, pilots have reported eye injuries that required medical treatment,” the FAA stated.
When aimed at an aircraft from the ground, the powerful beam of light from a handheld laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots. Those who have been subject to such attacks have described them as the equivalent of a camera flash going off in a pitch black car at night.
Interfering with the operation of an aircraft has long been a federal crime, but the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 specifically made it a federal felony to knowingly point the beam of a laser at an aircraft, the FBI stated. But the law hasn’t slowed the plague.
Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration began tracking laser strikes in 2005, there has been ridiculous 1,000% increase in the number of laser pointing/aircraft incidents year over year and as of Oct. 16, the total number of laser strikes around the U.S. this year is 5,352. In 2013 there were 3,960 reported incidents for the whole year.
Some recent reports show the level of the problem law enforcement faces:
“Ossieo Silva was outside 926 Fulton St. as CBS and NBC helicopters were idling above the 78th Precinct stationhouse…A pilot with NBC looked through his viewfinder and spotted a “heavy-set individual on the ground standing and pointing an item that emitted multiple flashes of light pointed at the cockpit,” according to court documents. Silva, 20, who allegedly matched the description, was seen by the pilot going into a restaurant. When police arrived, Silva allegedly admitted he never pointed a light at helicopters before and thought it would be funny, the document read.”
“On July 15, 2014, Stephen Francis Bukucs pleaded guilty to aiming his green laser device at United Airlines Flight 1406 and Jet Blue Flight 1205 as they flew over his apartment in Northeast Portland on October 13, 2013. The laser struck both aircraft and distracted the pilots during their final descents to Portland. Bukucs confessed to the FBI that, over several months, he had targeted up to 25 aircraft and that he did so for entertainment and as a “cat-and-mouse” game with the police who pursued him. His arrest occurred after intense air and ground surveillance by FBI agents and police officers. Investigators reported over 100 laser strikes from the vicinity of defendant’s apartment in 2013, the government stated to the court.”
“According to court documents, the California Highway Patrol plane was hit up to 50 times by a powerful green laser pointer. Andrew Zarate, 20, of Fresno was sentenced to one year in prison and two years of supervised release on Friday after he was convicted of pointing a powerful green laser at a CHP plane. Co-defendant David Walter, 22, of Fresno was sentenced in September to 18 months in prison. The laser attacks resulted in the pilot suffering from temporary blindness, forcing the plane to break away from a burglary in progress at a Fresno middle school.”
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