The deliberate targeting of aircraft by lasers has increased over 1,000 percent in the last eight years. Directing lasers at an airplane or helicopter can temporarily blind a pilot and creates a real safety risk for everyone on board and people on the ground, said officials. In 2013, there were almost 4,000 reported laser strikes; an average of 11 incidents a day. Improvements in technology and the availability of low cost lasers have contributed to the problem.
In 2012, due to the risks associated with an increase in these types of incidents, the President signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which included a provision making it a federal felony to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. This crime carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison. In addition, a civil fine of $11,000 can be imposed for Interference with a Flight Crew.
Pursuant to a national public awareness campaign, for the next 90 days, a reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of individuals aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. The Knoxville FBI office, in collaboration with the FAA, Department of Homeland Security (including the Transportation Security Administration [TSA] and the Federal Air Marshals), Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Alcoa Police Department, and the McGhee Tyson Air National Guard are tracking these incidents locally and will investigate reported violations of these statutes.
Laser incidents directed at aircraft may be reported to the FBI, the local law enforcement agency, or by calling 911.