FBI: $10,000 reward for info on anyone who points a laser at an aircraft

FBI rolls out 60 day program to raise awareness of danger of laser pointers to aircraft pilots

Here's a good idea: The FBI today said it launched a targeted 60 day program that will offer up to a $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.

The FBI said the laser pointing scourge continues to grow at an alarming rate.  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. Last year, 3,960 laser strikes against aircraft were reported-an average of almost 11 incidents per day.

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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, the FBI stated.  As of December 2013, the FAA has documented at least 35 incidents where pilots required medical attention after a laser strike.

The FAA said it has taken enforcement action against at least 28 people charged with aiming a laser device at an aircraft since June 2011.

"We hope that more public awareness about this issue will lower the instances of laser strikes," said George Johnson, a federal air marshal who serves as a liaison officer with the Bureau on laser issues.   "We also want to encourage people to come forward when they see someone committing this felony-one that could have terrible consequences for pilots and their passengers."

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 new law lowered the threshold for prosecution, the FBI's Johnsons said, "and the trend is on the rise for jail time in these cases."

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Last month, the FBI noted, a 23-year-old California man was sentenced to 21 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno County Sheriff's Office helicopter. Court records showed that the man deliberately tracked and struck the aircraft.

The targeted areas participating in the new program are Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Juan, and the FBI's Washington Field Office.

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