Reporting Mary Bubala
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Days before the busiest travel day of the year, state lawmakers are taking aim at a disturbing trend that makes flying more dangerous. They want stiffer penalties for pointing a laser at a plane.
Mary Bubala has the story.
Each year, hundreds of aircraft are hit by lasers.
In Maryland more than 64 complaints have poured into the FAA.
“Oh, yeah that would be blinding, if he got you right in the eyes, it would be blinding,” said Chris Lovejoy, Maryland State Police pilot.
Lovejoy was one of those pilots hit last year over Mt. Airy. His cockpit lit up.
He testified in Annapolis in support of legislation that would increase the fine to $2,500 with a penalty of up to three years in prison.
The measure has bipartisan support.
“Do we need this law, and I think when people find out that the current law says maybe a $500 fine and we’re talking about potential death, I think we are finding people in support of this bill,” said Delegate Sam Arora, D-Montgomery County.
Pilots on a Southwest Airlines flight with more than 130 people on board were blinded by a laser landing at BWI in February 2011.
The pilots were rushed to the hospital with eye injuries, and it’s happened to pilots in Medevac choppers over Maryland.
“We could have lost the whole aircraft had it been in a different situation or if it had damage to our eyes or equipment,” a pilot said.
The legislation actually passed the House last year but failed to reach a vote in the state Senate.
It will lead off the legislative session that begins in less than two months in Annapolis.
In February this year President Barack Obama signed federal anti-laser legislation with stiff fines and up to five years in prison.