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Wed, May 23, 2007

Legislation Criminalizes Laser Pointers Aimed At Aircraft

$12 Item Can Impair Pilot Vision

It doesn't matter if you are a terrorist or a prankster -- if you shine laser pointers at airplanes, you could now face up to five years in prison.

Under legislation approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives, the use of cheap, handheld laser pens "presents an imminent threat to aviation security and passenger safety," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) before the voice vote to approve the measure, according to the Associated Press.

Since 1990 the Federal Aviation Administration has reported more than 500 incidents of pilots being blinded or disoriented by laser beams according to Florida congressman Ric Keller, sponsor of the legislation.

Keller showed a laser pointer to House members and said what could be purchased for $12 at any office supply store, had the power to cause vision disturbances for pilots from two miles away.

The National Transportation Safety Board has documented two cases where pilots sustained actual injury to their eyes and were incapacitated during critical phases of a flight.

As ANN reported, last year New Jersey resident David Banach was sentenced under a provision of the USA Patriot Act to two years of probation for shining a laser pointer at an aircraft on final approach to Teterboro.

The plane, carrying six passengers, was at 3,000 feet when the beam hit the cockpit window -- causing both pilots to briefly lose night vision. They managed to land safely.

FMI: www.house.gov

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