A Colorado Springs man was indicted by a grand jury this week on three counts of pointing lasers at aircraft at the city's airport, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver.
Eric Joseph Gow, 21, allegedly aimed "high intensity lasers into aircraft cockpits during critical stages of flight at the Colorado Springs Airport," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release.
The incidents took place Jan. 14, 18 and 21, and involved a Delta commercial airliner, a small private plane and a Sky West airliner, which was operating a flight for Delta, according to the indictment.
In each case, Gow allegedly "aimed the beam of a laser pointer" into the "flight path" of the aircraft, the indictment said. The indictment didn't say if the aircraft were taking off or landing.
Gow, who was indicted Tuesday, appeared before District Court Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe on Thursday; he was released on bond, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. An arraignment and detention hearing are scheduled next week.
If convicted, Gow faces up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000, for each count.
Shining lasers can temporarily blind and disorient pilots when aircraft are most vulnerable during takeoffs and landings, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Some pilots also might suffer permanent eye damage from laser strikes.
In 2015, the Colorado Springs Airport reported 31 laser strikes - some aircraft reported being hit multiple times - and Denver International Airport reported 138 strikes, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Nationwide last year, pilots reported 7,347 laser strikes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Pointing a laser at aircraft is not a video game - it's a federal crime," U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a news release. "Not only does the laser strike create the possibility of an aviation disaster, it can permanently injure the eyesight of the pilots affected. If you do this, we will find you and prosecute you for the safety of the community."
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