June 11, 2014

The FBI will take nationwide a program that offers up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of those who aim a laser at an aircraft. The reward is available for 90 days in all 56 FBI field offices.

A test of the program in a dozen cities in February showed a 19-percent drop in ”lasing” of aircraft in those areas, according to the bureau.

”Lasing” is aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft when that aircraft is on approach to or departure from an airport. The laser beams are almost always the green type more injurious to eyes, and able to cause temporary crew blindness, described as like a camera flash going off in a pitch-black car at night. To date, at least 35 pilots have required medical attention after a laser attack, according to the FBI.

”I can’t stress enough how dangerous and irresponsible it is to point a laser at an aircraft,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. ”We know that targeted enforcement has succeeded in driving down laser incidents in a number of cities, and we’ll continue to partner with law enforcement to address this problem nationwide.”

In addition to the $10,000 reward, the FBI is working with state and local police and conducting in-school lessons for teens on the dangers of aircraft lasing. ”The public awareness campaign…has been effective [and] our hope in expanding the program is that people will think twice about illegally using these devices,” said Joe Campbell, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

Since the FBI and the FAA began tracking laser strikes in 2005, data shows a more than 1,100-percent increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers. In 2005, 283 such incidents were reported, compared to 3,960 last year, according to the FAA.

”We’ve known all along that business aviation isn’t immune from lasings,” said Doug Carr, NBAA vice president, regulatory and international affairs. ”We’re pleased to see the FBI expand this effective program to all airports after the successful initial public awareness campaign.”

Learn more about the FAA’s laser safety initiative.

Learn more about the FBI’s expanded laser threat reward program.