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Thu, Dec 15, 2005

House Passes Stiff Penalties For Pointing Lasers At Aircraft

Offers Alternative To Prosecuting Under Patriot Act

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would carry a $250,000 fine and a possible 5-year prison term for people who point lasers at aircraft. Proponents say the bill fills a gap in the current law that does not specifically prohibit pointing laser beams at aircraft -- evidently, relying on common sense (and the Patriot Act) to dissuade those from doing it.

Rep. Rick Keller of Florida, who sponsored the House bill, said the move came following heightened safety concerns caused by a rash of reports over the past year of pilots noticing laser light pointed at their planes while approaching to land.

Keller told the Associated Press it was only a matter of time before someone with a laser "ends up killing over 200 people in a commercial airline crash."

In response to a spike in the number of reports concerning "laser illumination," the FAA established a reporting system for pilots to track the trend. According to agency spokeswoman Laura Brown, since then 287 incidents have been documented.

As was reported at the beginning of the year in Aero-News, Parsippany, NJ resident David Banach was convicted of pointing a laser at airplanes preparing to land at Teterboro airport last year. He pleaded guilty in November to violating a provision of the USA Patriot Act, and could face probation -- or up to 20 years in prison.

Keller said his bill offers an alternative to citing the Patriot Act -- under which pointing a laser at aircraft is considered an act of terrorism -- in prosecuting similar cases where the Act doesn't necessarily apply.

The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.

FMI: www.dhs.gov

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