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Lasers Pointed At Aircraft A Growing Problem

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Laser At Plane

(Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) – Lasers are being pointed at aircraft cockpits in the United States at a record number, and last year, O’Hare International Airport had the second highest number of incidents.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, the Federal Aviation Administration says there were more than 2,800 reports of lasers being pointed at aircraft in the country – almost double the number in 2009.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

Los Angeles International Airport had the most incidents, with 102. O’Hare came second with 98.

“This is a very, very serious safety issue. Lasers can distract, they can harm, but mostly, they pose a danger not only to those who are flying, but those who are on the ground,” said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

Chicago Police say there does not appear to be anyone being arrested for any of the laser pointer incidents last year.

As handheld laser pointers become cheaper and available to the general public, inappropriate use of such devices is increasing in frequency, according to a December FAA report.

Although there have been no accidents involving the use of lasers, a disaster could result, the FAA said.

“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,” the report stated, as quoted in the Peoria Journal Star.

There have been arrests and jail sentences for some people who have used lasers to interfere with aircraft.

An Ohio man pleaded guilty to shining a laser at a medical helicopter last year, and was sentenced to 20 days in jail, the Journal Star reported.

In Boston, a man received a three-year federal prison sentence for pointing a laser at a police helicopter, which was escorting a gas tanker through Boston Harbor at the time, the Journal Star reported.

In Naples, Fla., two teens have been charged with felonies after they allegedly pointed a laser at two pilots landing a helicopter this past New Year’s Day. The pilots had to land early and seek medical aid for ruptured blood vessels in their eyes, the newspaper reported.

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