Saturday, November 09, 2013

More Than 30 Laser Strikes Reported at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport (KMSP) in 2013

You can buy a small, handheld laser pointer for less than $20, they're used in business presentations all the time. But the Federal Aviation Administration says that cheap little light can be extremely dangerous to pilots.

Since 2006, reports of laser pointers being aimed at planes have sky rocketed. So far in 2013, the FAA says there have been more than 3,000 laser strikes across the country. 31 of those hit planes flying into or out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"It could be potentially catastrophic," explained Trever Rossini, who owns In Flight Pilot Training at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie.

The FAA says one reason it's so dangerous is light expands as it travels, so if a laser hits a plane thousands of feet in the air, the light can flood the cockpit, surprising and potentially injuring a pilot.

"If that happens to you," Rossini said, "you could potentially make a fatal error." He would know. After reading about other pilots being hit with laser pointers, he asked a friend to shine a laser pointer at his own plane so he'd know how to handle it. "I was actually surprised, A, at how far the beam could travel and secondly how powerful the light actually was."

It's why the FAA reports laser strikes to the FBI immediately, and why Rossini hopes his planned laser strike is the only one he ever has to deal with.

The FAA can fine people $11,000 for aiming a laser pointer at a plane. On top of that, law enforcement agencies can get involved too. Those penalties vary depending on where they occur.

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