Thursday, November 12, 2015

Federal Aviation Administration: Lasers beams hit more than 20 aircraft overnight

Federal authorities have launched an investigation after numerous aircraft were hit by laser  beams Wednesday night.

More than 20 aircraft were struck while in flight over at least 16 U.S. cities, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration. Authorities said three strikes were reported to the FAA in the New York City area, followed by three in Texas that hit jets that were preparing to land.

“None of the pilots reported injuries,” according to the statement. “Nevertheless, shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime that the U.S. vigorously pursues. Lasers distract pilots from their safety duties and can lead to temporary blindness during critical phases of flight, such as takeoff and landing. In some cases in the past, pilots have reported eye injuries that required medical treatment.”

Laser beams have been known to travel more than a mile from the ground to the cockpit, momentarily blinding pilots in flight.

Capt. Joe DePete, first vice president from the Air Line Pilots Association, told The Washington Post over the summer that lasers are most dangerous when pilots are trying to take off or land.

“During critical phases of flight, particularly in hours of darkness when the eye is more sensitive to light sources,” he said, “a laser strike in the cockpit can create a ‘startle response’ which negatively impacts pilot health and flight safety.”

A helicopter from CBS New York in flight over Park Slope, Brooklyn, was among the those that saw the beams.

“When we were looking there, we got lasered,” pilot Joe Biermann told the news station. At the same time, he said, “the NYPD was right next to us, so they hovered above the place.”

Pilots for two other TV stations — WNBC-TV and WABC-TV — made similar reports, according to CBS New York.

The other laser strikes were reported in Los Angeles, Oakland, Ontario, Palm Springs and Sacramento, Calif.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Springfield, Ill.; Covington and Danville, Ky.; Detroit, Mich.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Jamestown, N.Y.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The FAA said that more than 5,300 laser strikes have been reported in the U.S. so far this year.

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