FAA Investigating Cluster Of 11 Laser Hits On Planes Flying Near Newark Airport

Not the plane in question. (don buciak)

Not the plane in question. (don buciak)

They might seem like harmless flashes of light to those of us on the ground, but lasers can seriously disrupt planes in flight, most notably when they hit pilots in the eyes, potentially causing injuries. That’s why the Federal Aviation Administration is taking reports of 11 separate laser incidents near Newark Liberty International Airport in one night very seriously.

The FAA is investigating the shining of lasers into the cockpits of 11 commercial planes flying over New Jersey Wednesday night, a spokesman told Reuters on Thursday.

A hand-held laser can shoot a small beam of light for more than a mile, lighting up a cockpit and temporarily blinding the people in charge of flying that huge piece of metal carrying human lives safely through the air. In other words, it is not funny, and is in fact, a federal crime.

No injuries have been reported in this week’s incidents, which happened in the span of an hour and a half, an FAA spokesman said. Nine of those planes were believed to be heading for Newark’s airport.

“Aircraft were hit by lasers on the right and left side of the cockpit,” the FAA spokesman said, adding that nearly all of the pilots involved reported a green laser beam shot from the ground. There have been a total of 2,751 laser events this year.

Laser strikes were reported by a variety of airlines and commercial craft, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Republic Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue.

The problem is so serious that the FBI offered a $10,000 reward last year to people in the St. Louis area who helped it catch the laser-pointing ne’er-do-wells in the act.

And in March, a man was accused of pointing laser beams into the cockpits of several planes near LaGuardia Airport, injuring pilots in the process.

FAA probes 11 laser hits on planes flying near Newark airport [Reuters]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.