Laser pointer attacks on airplanes skyrocketing

The number of incidents of people hitting airplanes with laser pointers is up 1,100 percent since 2005, according to a study.

A new study says that incidents of pilots being targeted with laser pointers is at an all-time high. FAA

Attacks in which airplanes are targeted with laser pointers are up 1,100 percent nationwide since 2005.

According to Quartz, the Federal Aviation Administration reported that there were more cases of planes being targeted with lasers in January 2013 than in all of 2005. This January, there were 346 cases, while in all of 2005, there were just 283.

The FAA takes the matter so seriously that it has a Web site dedicated to informing the public about the hazard. "No accidents have been attributed to the illumination of crewmembers by lasers, but given the sizable number of reports and debilitating effects that can accompany such events, the potential does exist," the FAA wrote in a document (PDF) posted on its site. "Sudden exposure to laser radiation during a critical phase of flight, such as on approach to landing or departure, can distract or disorient a pilot and cause temporary visual impairment."

According to CBS News -- which is owned by CNET parent CBS -- the FBI recently warned of a "dramatic increase" in the number of attacks on planes landing at the three airports in the New York City area. The number of such reported incidents is up 17 percent over a year earlier in the New York area, the FBI said.

Just last week, there were two separate cases of planes in the New York area being hit with lasers. "The cockpit of a Shuttle America flight was illuminated by a green laser on its final approach to LaGuardia Airport at 7:30 p.m. about 6 miles from the runway," CBS News reported. "Later that night, about 10:30 p.m., a private aircraft reported a green laser 2 miles southwest of LaGuardia Airport."

In 2011, the FAA imposed a civil penalty of up to $11,000 for targeting a plane with a laser. "Shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft is not a joke," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a release at the time. "These lasers can temporarily blind a pilot and make it impossible to safely land the aircraft, jeopardizing the safety of the passengers and people on the ground."

About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.

 

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