FBI Can't Believe People are Still Dumb Enough to Point Lasers at Airplanes
February 13, 2014 at 4:49 PM
We did a full blog post about this issue in 2011, and even back then we felt a little torn about whether it was worth writing. There was a legitimate travel politics story at the time, since the FAA had just announced a dedicated system for reporting people who were aiming lasers at aircraft. But it didn't really seem like there was any there there. How stupid do you have to be to aim a laser at the eyes of a pilot who's trying to land a gigantic commercial jet? How many people could we really be talking about?
It turns out that there were almost 4,000 laser strikes reported in 2013, with the average being 11 reported incidents every day. The actual number is thought to be much higher because of under-reporting. Starting in September 2012 and going forward a year, which is how the relevant Justice Department records are kept, five people were convicted in federal court for aiming lasers at airplanes. Another 15 people have cases pending against them.
The FBI is getting very grumpy.
Los Angeles airline industry journalist Brian Summers reported yesterday about an FBI press conference where officials described how they're widening a crackdown against laser strikes. There are already fines and reporting procedures in place. But for a specific window of time and in a particular mix of places - 60 days at 12 FBI field offices - the agency will be offering $10,000 for information that leads to arrests.
We're embedding video below from a press conference about the moves. The effort is as much a publicity campaign as a law enforcement push. The goal is to heighten awareness not just of the dangers but of the staggering illegality of endangering commercial airliners. Apparently there are still a lot of people out there who think it's good clean fun.
And thus concludes today's lesson on why the American Founding Fathers were kind of worried about democracy.
[Photo: Brian Sumers / Tout]