News 5 Investigates

Feb 11, 2014 8:02 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: FBI gets involved with laser pointers targeting planes

The FBI is starting a new initiative this month aimed at taking down people who point lasers at airplanes.

While it may sound like a harmless prank, the pen-sized pointers can hit a target miles away, temporarily blinding a pilot.

Andrew Hopwood is a flight instructor at Peak Aviation. He knows first hand how frightening it is to be in the cockpit of a plane when you're blinded by a laser pointer.

"My captain and I were flying and the light shined into the cockpit and we both experienced 10-15 seconds of momentary blindness," Hopwood said.

Ten to 15 seconds with no visibility could have turned deadly. The incident happened at Denver International Airport, which recently ranked 10th in the nation for laser incidents. Since 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration reported 175 laser sightings at DIA, and another 35 at the Colorado Springs airport.

"Sometimes the windshields are curved just right and the laser can just glow and light up the cockpit at night," Hopwood said.

Incidents involving laser pointers have nearly doubled in the past 3 years.

2010: 2,200 cases
2012: 3,400 cases
2014: 3,900 cases

Phoenix, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Houston, Tucson, San Diego, Chicago, Portland and Miami all had the highest number of laser incidents.

To start out, the FBI's crackdown will focus on airports in Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Portland.

The crackdown will last 60 days. A $10,000 reward is up for grabs to anyone who provides information to the FBI that leads to an arrest.

"It's not a harmless prank," Hopwood said. "They (the FBI) can and will find you."

If you have information about a lasering incident or see someone pointing a laser at an airplane, call your local FBI office or law enforcement agency.

Below is a detailed incident report list for laser encounters.

Colorado Springs Airport:


Pueblo Memorial Airport:

2009 - 0
2010 - 1
2011 - 0
2012 - 1
2013 - 1

Denver International Airport:


The above statistics were sent to News 5 by Allen Kenitzer, Communications and Media Relations Manager for the FAA, Denver.



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