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FBI Kicks Off Campaign to Address Laser Threats to Aircraft

Cheektowaga, NY (WBEN) - Do not point lasers at airplanes.

That's the message of a new national campaign by the FBI aiming to reduce threats to aircraft. It's a much bigger problem than you may think.

"There have been 33 incidents in the Western New York area, to include the airports in Rochester, Buffalo, and the Niagara International Airport over the last three years," said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Buffalo Field Office Brian Boetig. "It just takes one incident, and one plane going down, before everybody recognizes it as a major problem."

That's why the FBI is taking a proactive approach, offering a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at an aircraft. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense, punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison. 

"When a laser strikes an aircraft, it beams off of the interior of that cockpit, causing a blindness to the pilots, which obviously can lead to catastrophic events." Boetig said that many of the reported incidents of lasers hitting planes happened during takeoff or landing, both critical points for pilots. Lasers that hit planes often look much different than when they hit a blackboard in a classroom, the laser's end expands with distance, and is much larger when it hits a plane.

How does the FBI plan on catching people who point lasers at planes from far away?

"It's difficult, but that's why we put together the resources of the FBI and other federal agencies," Boetig said. "A lot of it comes down to talking to people on the ground, and with a $10,000 reward, the possibility of having people come forward to turn in their neighbor or their friend is greatly increased by this program."

The FBI asks anyone who sees someone pointing a laser at an aircraft to call them at 716-856-7800.

Filed Under :  
Locations : BuffaloCheektowagaNew YorkRochesterWestern New York
People : Brian Boetig