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West PA Officials Say Laser Incidents On The Rise

Seventeen Occurrences Reported To The FAA Through August

The area around Pittsburgh seems to have become a hotbed for targeting aircraft with lasers, and authorities say the people doing it may not be aware of how dangerous it is to the occupants of the aircraft or people on the ground.

The FAA has received 17 reports of lasers targeting airplanes and helicopters in the first eight months of 2010, which is more than the past 5 years combined. And while no major accidents in the U.S. have been attributed to a laser being shone into a cockpit, "it's a treat to aviation safety," said FAA spokesman Jim Peters.

The Associated Press reports that green lasers were shone into the cockpits of two medical helicopters in the Pittsburgh area in the last weekend of August. One was flying a 5 year old boy who had been injured in a bicycle accident to a nearby hospital. The other was transporting a 65 year old man who had suffered a head injury. No one was injured in either incident.

Federal authorities say the sharp increase in laser incidents may be due to the steep drop in the cost of the devices. They are also easy to order online, and instructions on building the devices are easily available on the Internet as well.


Red Laser As Seen At Night

Shining a laser into an aircraft cockpit is a federal crime, and carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If a laser is used to interfere with a flight crew, the person doing so could also be prosecuted under The Patriot Act.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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