US & Canada

FBI cracks down on laser attacks on aircraft

Green laser Image copyright Not Specified
Image caption Commonly-used lasers can temporarily blind pilots at thousands of feet

The FBI has said it will expand a reward programme offering $10,000 (£6,000) for information leading to arrests over "lasing" incidents.

Laser pointers directed at helicopter and aeroplane pilots can temporarily blind those piloting the aircraft.

The FBI says it has seen a sharp increase in such incidents since they began tracking them in 2005.

Initially US officials offered the reward as an experiment in 12 cities in February.

Now it will expand the effort across all 56 field offices in the US, Puerto Rico and Guam for 90 days.

The latest known incident happened on 23 May, when a pilot approaching New York's LaGuardia Airport said someone shone a laser into his aircraft at 5,000 ft (1,524m).

The beam was tracked to a residential area eight miles away.

And in March, a California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for shining a laser pointer at police and hospital helicopters.

The law enforcement agency and the Federal Aviation Administration recorded fewer than 300 laser attacks in 2005. In 2013, they recorded nearly 4,000.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Astronomers use laser pens to point to stars

The FBI began the reward programme in February in a dozen field offices, including Chicago, Houston, New York, Phoenix and Washington.

The agency said it had seen a 19% reduction in those areas during the time period of the trial programme.

As part of the FBI's push there will be public service announcements about the programme during film previews in a theatre chain in the Mid-West.

Related Topics

More on this story