MILLERSVILLE, Md. (WJZ) — More than 100 people nearly lost their lives when someone tried to sabotage a plane landing at BWI Marshall Airport.

Andrea Fujii explains the incident that sent the pilots to the hospital.

Federal agents are aggressively looking for the person they say could have caused a catastrophic loss of life.

On Feb. 20, 129 passengers and five crew members were on board a Southwest airplane, fast approaching BWI.  It was making a final descent when the FBI says someone from the ground beamed a laser right into the cockpit, momentarily blinding the pilot and first officer.

“The plane’s low and slow; it’s probably the most critical phase of flight,” said Chris Dancy, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

The plane, coming from Milwaukee to Baltimore, was only 2,000 feet over Millersville.

“I think it’s terrible.  I’m in that plane, very precious cargo, to have my life jeopardized by a prank,” said BWI passenger Gary Lydic.

The pilot and first officer landed the plane and were then rushed to the hospital with eye injuries.

Dancy, a pilot himself, can’t imagine such a dangerous distraction.

“If you’re blinded and you can’t see those instruments, it is possible you would slow the plane too much and it would essentially stop flying.  It would stall and you don’t have any room to recover,” he said.

The FAA says there’s been a dramatic spike in laser strikes nationwide.  From 1990 to 2005, there were only 400 reported incidents.  In 2009, it was more than 1,500 and in 2010, there were more than 2,800.

The FAA says last year, BWI was among the top 20 airports in the country that had the highest number of reported cases; there were 31.

Now many passengers are scared their flight could be next.

“I can’t help but think about it,” said Judy Kelly, BWI passenger.

“Just stop the bad behavior, for crying out loud!  What’s the point?” Lydic said.

The FBI and Maryland Transportation Authority Police request that anyone with information related to this incident to contact the FBI at 410-265-8080 or Maryland Transportation Authority Police at 410-859-7041.  A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible.

Comments (30)
  1. pigeon says:

    Need to take them off the market and parents need to take them from their children. Those who do this knowingly probably also think it’s fun to key vehicles, torture animals, be a bully, etc. etc.
    I am thankful this didn’t turn into a really bad situation; hopefully the pilot and copilot (1st officer) suffered no permanent damage to their eyes.

  2. ashley g. says:

    Probably some young kids, with nothing better to do. Glad noone was injured seriously !

  3. Bill Walton says:

    this dumb

  4. Jonathan Chiles says:

    Injuries to their eyes? Seriously? They are at 2000 feet coming in at close to 200 mph. The angle of the laser would have to be directly in front of them to hit both in the eyes. That doesn’t even make sense. Some Teen with a new toy thought it would be funny to illuminate a jet and be able to see the red or green dot from the ground. Most likely a boy and probably was unaware that it is a federal law. I believe they have as much of a chance of finding the person as they would finding a needle in a hay stack.

    1. Raven says:

      You really should research something before you come on to an online news site and make ridiculous statements like this. Not only can it temporarily blind people, the residual damage can be lasting. Your comment shows your ignorance and lack of research and knowledge. Not only have people who have done this been caught, they have been convicted. Try learning something instead of trying to sound educated, the two go hand in hand.

    2. J says:

      public safety issue….dumb comment as you weren’t there and don’t know the specifics.. except the needle in a haystack. but kids can’t keep their mouths shut. so they may have a shot.

    3. Mike says:

      How idiotic can you be? Why not give Junior a gun. Then he can point it at the plance & he will think it’s funny to see the plane crash down the street. The fact is, these things should carry the federal warnings on the side of them. With all the heightened security these days, the LAST THING kids (or anyone) should NOT be doing is messing with airplanes. THis is just plain stupid. Kids not knowing what federal laws may be possible. BUt if a kid is old enough to walk outside and point one of these things at a plane, he is olde enough to use common sense…

  5. Copboy says:

    I was zapped while driving late at night. The green laser entered my windshield briefly and startled me . Fortunately, it missed my eyes. I cannot imagine a pilot, trying to land an aiplane, dealing with that. Kudos to the air crew for their professionalism.

  6. hotmom says:

    @jonathan…i agree. it seems the likelihood of a direct hit to BOTH pilots’ eyes is slim. If the incidents of laser beaming have increased so rapidly, shouldn’t the FAA require pilots to wear some sort of protective eye wear once they descend to a certain altitude?

    1. J says:

      your comment is dumber than jonathan’s.

      1. Mike says:

        SO, Hotmom, When did You get your kids their pointers????

      2. smartmom says:

        J I agree completely! And Mike, probably about the time she couldnt control them in a store and gave them whatever they wanted to shut them up, because thats what good parents do, right not so hotmom?

  7. Melanie says:

    After all these years the laser pointers are not banned yet?Mainly kids buy them.They should be banned or only be allowed to be sold to adults.

    1. HH says:

      Thats a good idea and I wish it would work but too many parents now a days will give their kids anything to shut them up or keep them occupied!

  8. mike says:

    At a distance of 1 mile (1,609 m), the beam from a typical helium-neon laser (which is a quite well collimated source) will have spread to a diameter of roughly 4 feet (48 inches, 1.3 m). However, it will still appear quite bright.
    I can only assume they were at least that far away.

  9. Therese Erigo says:

    Should require pilots to wear approved safety goggles to protect from lasers when below 10000 feet. Someone could make a lot of money if they could make an reactive optic windshield or goggle that immediately filters intense single wavelength light sources out.

  10. kinghenry says:

    Stick an ice pick into their eyes & let them see a flash.

  11. SMH says:

    Something like this could turn into a new terrorist type attack. If you can instantly blind the pilot that close to the ground. This is horrible. My neighbor had one of the green ones you can get in ocean City and it is bright. He shined it in my house window. This is crazy and to be honest, it is not just kids who have these pointers……….

  12. sbb says:

    I agree that it was probably a kid. They sell them on the boardwalk in Ocean City and they are green lasers. All kinds of kids were playing with them there this summer.

  13. Doug says:

    Andra, this is way overblown and it’s probably just kids goofing.
    If you have no real story,Andrea,then are you really a reporter,
    or just a yacking gossip queen.

    1. HPH says:

      You’re an idiot! How is endangering a plane full of people “overblown”? If its just kid goofing I hope the parents get whats coming to them for not teaching their children better but regardless of who it was I dont want to be on a plane when it happens again! Thats stupid, dangerous and not to mention how STUPID does one have to be to mess with a plane now a days????

    2. Mike says:

      WIll this be overblown when a plane comes crashing down as a result?? Kids “goofing” is an excuse!!! GIve them a gun to “Goof” with, give them gasoline & matches to “Goof” with, “Goof” around and cut someone’s brake lines. Come on Doug, get a life. This isn’t the 1950’s when goofing around was just that. Andrea reported this as it was. Not her fault that some of the kids (not all I emphasize) do crazy things — she just reports them…

  14. tylerjake says:

    Why are these even allowed to be sold?!

  15. MIKE says:


    1. jeff says:

      Maybe that laser has affected your brain as well, judging by your comment.

    2. Cooler than N2 says:

      Being a physics professor, I can assure that a laser can quickly, easily, and painlessly blind you. It is not just the intensity of the laser that does damage, but more so the fact that the light source is coherent. You in fact probably did damage your retina when you did that. However, I am also assuming you did it during the day. First imagine at night with your pupil’s fully dilated. Any source of light is going to force a rapid change in pupil size, causing you to no longer see as well. Now imagine you are flying a plane.

      While you may share with this pilot the experience of having a laser shined in your eye, I highly doubt you both share the experience of flying a plane. Until you put yourself in that position, I suggest you remain respectfully quiet.

      Also to give you some idea of the pilot’s perspective:

      1. jennster says:

        best comment on the entire thread!

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