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.