FBI: Laser Strikes on Planes is a Growing Problem

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -The FBI is cracking down on people pointing lasers at airplanes.

They say it can distract pilots and could even be deadly and its happening here in the Midlands.

"If you think this is a prank, its not; it's a felony," said FBI Special Agent John Kitzinger.

From the ground pointing a laser in the night sky doesn't seem that dangerous. But inside a cockpit it's a blinding mechanism for pilots.

"Its something that has been going on for a while, its nothing new," said Lynne Douglas with the Columbia Metro Airport.

Nine years ago there were less than 500 laser strikes; now there have been more than 5,000 nationwide.

"Lasing an aircraft is extremely dangerous to the pilot as well as the passengers on the aircraft and the people on the ground. What if this was your family, you would want them to be protected," said Kitzinger.

Kitzinger says lasing happens just about every day. Last year in our state pilots reported close to 150 laser strikes.

Douglas says they take these strikes seriously.

"This is not a game this is not a toy, we are talking about not only the safety of the pilots but the passengers so its an extremely serious issue," said Douglas.

Two years ago president Obama made it illegal to point a laser in the direction of an aircraft.

Lasing a plane is a felony and could get your five years in prison and a $11,000 fine.

The FDA regulates lasers and you can only legally buy a laser that is not stronger than 5 Milliwatts.

Agent Kitzinger says they have FBI liaison officers working with local airports but they really need the public to report when they see someone breaking the law.

"We just want the public to be force multipliers and when they see something suspicious or hear that someone in engaging in this that they report it to law enforcement."

In South Carolina, this year, pilots have reported eight laser strikes.


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