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Tougher Penalties For Laser Pointers Aimed At Aircrafts

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—It may be used as a plaything, but laser pointers are deadly serious when focused on aircrafts. Incidents of pilots being temporary blinded have nearly doubled.

Alex DeMetrick reports that has forced the federal government to up the punishment.

Ten dollars can buy a lot of trouble when laser pointers aim at aircrafts. A re-creation actually happened on the way into BWI-Marshall. The impact on pilots was stressed again on Wednesday.

“What really struck me about the laser was the intensity of it,” said Chad Smith, Delta pilot. “It’s kind of indescribable how intense the laser beam really was.”

According to the FAA, there were over 2,800 laser incidents last year. That nearly doubling the more than 1,500 reported in 2009. Most incidents occurred at Los Angeles International. BWI- Marshall reported 31 planes hit by laser light last year.

“The bottom line here: pointing a laser at an aircraft is a public safety hazard. Don’t do it,” said Randy Babbit, FAA administrator.

If you do, the FAA promises a new fine of $ 11,000.

“Anything they can do to raise awareness. I think more than anything, $11,000 it’s going to get someone’s attention,” said Chris Lovejoy, MSP pilot.

And paying attention, especially at night, is directly linked to a pilot’s night vision.

“It illuminates the cockpit,” Lovejoy said. “Right away that ruins your night vision. If you get a guy that’s on a short final that’s getting ready to land an aircraft, the last thing you want him is distracted.”

Up until now, the penalties varied from state to state. Not anymore.

“There will be a consequence,” Babbit said. “If we catch you using one of these, we will go after you. There will be a civil penalty.”

Too much is riding not to have a deterrent.

Besides causing a loss of night vision, laser pointers can permanently damage eyesight.

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