Rash Of Laser Reports Causes Security Concerns

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The FBI is investigating several incidents of lasers shining into the cockpits of airplanes on approach to U.S. airports in the last week. Pilots of six commercial airliners, a police helicopter and a Cessna Citation described seeing beams of green light in the cockpit that originated on the ground. On Saturday, authorities questioned a New Jersey man in connection with several of the incidents, but no arrests were made. No damages or injuries have occurred. The lasers were directed at two airliners in Colorado Springs; a Continental 737 at 8,500 feet on approach to Cleveland; airliners at Houston, Medford, Ore., and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.; and the Citation and helicopter near Teterboro, N.J. The Department of Homeland Security has said that terrorists might use the lasers as weapons to disrupt or track aircraft. Other authorities said the laser operators may be pranksters, or simply careless.

Authorities said the type of laser used in at least one of the recent incidents was likely a powerful beam used in the construction industry to mark sites. In a June 2004 report, the FAA said lasers in the cockpit can startle, distract, disorient or temporarily blind pilots, and could potentially cause an accident. Hundreds of such incidents have been reported, the FAA said. In September, a Delta Air Lines pilot reported damage to his retina from a laser beam directed into the cockpit during a landing in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's against the law to intentionally shine a laser at a commercial aircraft.