Posted by John McHale
WASHINGTON, 7 June 2011. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials announced that the stiff civil penalties will be imposed against individuals who point lasers into aircraft cockpits -- with a maximum penalty of $11,000.
A legal interpretation was released by FAA officials basically states that lasers directed into cockpits might interfere with flight crew operations, which is a violation of federal aviation regulations. Prior to this interpretation individuals charged with interfering with the flight crew were passengers on board who interfered with the flight crew. Now that it has been determined that lasers pointed at cockpits could cause a pilot's vision to be impaired thus hurting the pilot's ability to operate the aircraft safely.
According to the FAA there have been more than 1,100 laser-pointing incidents reported by pilots nationwide this year. There were 2,836 incidents reported in 2010 -- with Los Angeles International Airport recording the most incidents with 102 reports, Chicago O'Hare International Airport was next with 98 laser incident reports. Tied for third were Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with 80 a piece reported.
So far in 2011 the airports with the most laser-reported events are Dallas-Fort Worth and Phoenix with more than 45 reported. The Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Houston areas each have reported more than 30 incidents.
FAA officials say they suspect the increase in reported incidents is due to increased pilot awareness and the fact that the FAA is encouraging them to report the incidents. Also contributing are the facts that laser devices are available and inexpensive on the Internet; greater power levels for the lasers, making it easier for them to reach an aircraft at high altitudes; and the proliferation of green lasers, which are more visible than red ones.
In some parts of the country it is illegal to point lasers at aircraft and those found responsible can face federal charges.
There is also legislation before congress that would criminalize purposefully aiming a laser at an aircraft. Language to this effect was included by the Senate in the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, which as passed in February. The House of Representatives also passed legislation that enacts a similar penalty. Both bills are still awaiting more action.
Posted by John McHale