FAA investigates recent “laser attack” reports

Since 2005 about 35,000 laser pointing incidents have been reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. (Photo: FAA)

Recent police reports indicate aircraft on the Kenai Peninsula are being targeted by handheld lasers.

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According to Kenai Police Chief David Ross, three laser incidents were reported to the Kenai Police Department in 2016. The incidents occurred in April, November and December.

Ross said all reports are immediately turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration for further investigation.

Allen Kenitzer is the regional public affairs officer for the FAA. He said they take this matter very seriously and investigate each report.

“Lasers can distract pilots,” Kenitzer said. “There have been several reports of pilots being temporarily visually impaired by these lasers, and some of these exposures have resulted in operational problems, including giving up control of the aircraft to another pilot or aborted landings.”

When aimed at an aircraft from the ground, the light from a handheld laser can travel more than a mile. Pointing a laser at a plane can the light can disorient and temporarily blind pilots.

According to a release from the FAA, those who have been subject to such attacks describe them as similar to a camera flash in a pitch-black car at night.

Kenitzer said there have been about 35,000 reported incidents nationwide since they began tracking them in 2005.

“There have been incidents where it could have been accidental, but that’s more just a flash. I mean we’re talking about people pointing a laser at an aircraft and concentrating it on that aircraft,” Kenitzer said.

No aircraft have crashed as a result of a laser incident.

It is a federal crime to deliberately shine lasers at aircraft. If convicted, a person can face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

If you have information about an incident or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, contact your local police department.

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