The FAA Seeks Your Help To Curb Laser Incidents


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The FAA Seeks Your Help To Curb Laser Incidents

By Daniel Baxter

December 9, 2010 - There is a growing problem of people pointing lasers at the cockpits of aircraft as they takeoff and land. The exposure to laser light on crewmembers while operating an aircraft at night, results in a visual impairment (flash blindness) that can put passengers and crews in a hazardous situations. 

?Keeping the flying public safe is the FAA's mission. We have thousands of employees who work to keep our air space system the safest in the world. But there's a growing safety problem that I want to make sure everyone knows about: pointing lasers at airplanes,? said Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator, Randy Babbitt.  

?It sounds silly, but this is a serious problem. Just this year alone, we have had over 2,200 reported instances of people pointing lasers into the cockpits of airplanes flying around some of our nation's busiest airports. This is up from 283 reported events in 2005.

?Why is this dangerous? Lasers can distract pilots or temporarily blind a pilot while he or she is taking off or landing an aircraft.  Some of these exposures have required pilots to have to temporarily give up control of an aircraft to their co-pilot or abort a landing. We have also had reports of people shining lasers into air traffic control towers. 

?The FAA encourages pilots to immediately report any laser events to air traffic controllers so law enforcement can be notified right away. People can face stiff local, state or federal penalties if they are convicted of purposefully shining a laser into an aircraft cockpit. In 2009, California, Texas, and Florida topped the list of states with the most reported laser events. 

?We know that laser pointers are an important tool for astronomers and casual stargazers. But, we just can?t stress enough the importance of being careful when you are shining them into the night sky. Flight crews and air traffic controllers are dedicated to aviation safety and the FAA is committed to raising the awareness of this important safety issue so we can stop these laser events from occurring. You can help us by alerting your local law enforcement officials if you ever see someone shining a laser at an airplane?. 

An example of such behavior, Joseph Aquino, 31, of Warwick, R.I., was indicted by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court in Providence on charges of willfully interfering with the safe operation of an airborne commercial aircraft and endangering the safety of the passengers and crew.

Aquino was indicted on charges he interfered with the safe operation of an aircraft and endangered the passengers and crew on September 15, 2010, when he allegedly illuminated the cockpit of an incoming commercial flight on final approach to T.F. Green Airport with a laser light, momentarily blinding the pilot. If convicted, Aquino faces maximum sentences of 20 years? imprisonment; three years' supervised release; and $250,000 fine on each count.

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