FBI Probing Laser Directed Into Jet's Cockpit
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
CLEVELAND "” Authorities are investigating a mysterious laser beam that was directed into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500 feet.
The beam appeared Monday when the plane was about 15 miles from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the FBI said.
"It was in there for several seconds like [the plane] was being tracked," FBI agent Robert Hawk said.
The pilot was able to land the plane, and air traffic controllers used radar to determine the laser came from a residential area in suburban Warrensville Heights.
Hawk said the laser had to have been fairly sophisticated to track a plane traveling at that altitude. Authorities had no other leads, and are investigating whether the incident was a prank or if there was a more sinister motive.
Federal officials have expressed concern about terrorists using laser beams, which can distract or temporarily blind a pilot.
A memo sent to law enforcement agencies recently by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department says there is evidence that terrorists have explored using lasers as weapons. Authorities said there is no specific intelligence indicating Al Qaeda or other groups might use lasers in the United States.
A man in New Jersey has been questioned following two incidents in the New York area and the person claimed he didn't shine the beam to cause any harm. Seems odd to me that he wouldn't know that shining a laser into a cockpit could blind the pilots. Hopefully, the FBI won't take his word for it and further investigate this. Odd that all 7 incidents throughout the country happened after Christmas.
Now how ridiculous is this? Delta and other airlines are lowering their fares at a time when we expect the airlines to tighten security (costly) and keep passengers safe. There is an anti-laser device available to the airlines but of course they are 'too costly'- supposedly $100,000.00 a piece. I would rather skip a few trips and pay more for the flights I do take then go down in an airliner because the airline failed to provide protection against this growing problem. 8 incidents as of today. United reported a laser incident on a plane bound for Chicago.
Another concern I have unrelated to the laser incidents, is that U.S. air is asking mechanics to take a pay cut along with other employees.From what I've heard, these people are already overworked and underpaid. I believe that these mechanics along with the pilots have the most important jobs to keep the airlines running safely and think of all the employees, they should be spared from these pay cuts.
Feds Probe Tenn. Laser Beam Report
Monday, January 03, 2005
TRENTON, N.J. "” Federal officials are investigating an incident in which a laser beam was aimed at a jet after it left Nashville International Airport bound for Chicago.
Pilots of a United Airlines flight heading to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Sunday reported seeing a green laser beam shortly after takeoff, said United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski.
The flight, which had about 30 people on board, landed safely in Chicago.
The FBI said it's investigating the incident along with the Transportation Security Administration (search) and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Federal agents are looking into similar incidents involving lasers and aircraft, including cases in Cleveland; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Medford, Ore.; and Teterboro, N.J.
Laser beams can temporarily blind or disorient pilots and possibly cause a plane to crash. Federal law enforcement officials have said there is no evidence of a terrorist plot involving the laser beams.
Apparently the Chicago bound flight laser incident has been ruled a prank but the other cases don't appear to be solved.
FBI: No terror link in lasers aimed at aircraft
WASHINGTON "” A string of incidents around the country involving laser beams aimed at aircraft aren't linked to terrorism and are more likely the work of mischief makers, the FBI said Sunday.
The FBI attributed eight incidents in the past 10 days to pranks or accidental acts that tagged aircraft in Ohio, Texas, Oregon and New Jersey. Pilots reported that powerful laser beams apparently had been aimed at them during takeoffs and landings.
Full story here...
Man Charged With Aiming Laser at Aircraft
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A man who initially claimed his daughter aimed a laser at a helicopter was charged after he told federal agents that he pointed the light beam at two aircraft, authorities said Tuesday.
David Banach of Parsippany faces charges of interfering with the operator of a mass transportation vehicle and making false statements to the FBI (news - web sites). He is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Tuesday afternoon.
The aircraft were targeted by the lasers near Teterboro Airport.
Full story here...
Hi CD, thanks for the article. Unbelievable that not only would this guy do a thing like this but that he would blame his daughter. I have a feeling at this point that all these incidents are probably stories similar to this. All 8 incidents seemed to happen after Xmas- maybe that's what they got as gifts??? I'm just glad they caught this person as maybe it will be a wake up to the other nutballs out there who think doing this sort of thing is a joke.
This idiot could get 25 years for pointing a laser at an airplane due to the Patriot's act and the fact that he lied and said it was his (5 yr. old) daughter that did it.
Just wanted to add that prior to the Patriot's act being passed this wouldn't have even been a crime.
Doesn't even sound like Banach realized that the beam could actually reach the helicopter. Talk about getting into serious trouble over doing something you thought was harmless. 25 years is a heck of a lesson to learn.
You know it doesn't even matter if it is terrorists doing this or sicko pranksters. It needs to stop before it ends in tragedy. I hear today that actions are being taken to protect pilots from this newest threat to safety. I hope that's true.
Pilots to Be Warned of Lasers
31 Beams Pointed at Aircraft in 3 Weeks, FAA Says
By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 13, 2005; Page A10
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta yesterday announced a new reporting system for pilots to notify the government when lasers are aimed at aircraft from the ground, calling a recent increase in the number of such incidents a "serious aviation safety matter."
Since Dec. 23, the Federal Aviation Administration has recorded 31 laser beams pointed at aircraft. Since 1990, 400 incidents have occurred. The agency's research facility found that lasers can distract pilots while they are taking off or landing an aircraft and cause temporarily blindness. In rare cases, lasers can cause permanent eye damage.
Mineta said the FAA would work with law enforcement agencies to ensure that people who endanger aircraft are prosecuted. Under the new procedures, pilots must report laser incidents to the FAA. Air traffic controllers will then warn other aircraft of the danger and advise pilots to avoid the area. So far, the FBI said it has found no evidence of terrorist involvement in the lasers pointed at aircraft in recent weeks.
"Shining lasers at an airplane is not a harmless prank. It is stupid and dangerous," Mineta said in a written statement. "You are putting other people at risk, and law enforcement authorities are going to seek you out, and if they catch you, they are going to prosecute you."
Last week, a New Jersey man was charged in federal court for interfering with an aircraft that was approaching an airport in Teterboro. He pleaded not guilty but police say he admitted that he had aimed the laser at the plane after he initially blamed his young daughter. Transportation officials said they think most lasers pointed at aircraft are operated by careless individuals who may or may not realize the safety hazards.
"There is no evidence at this time terrorist groups are actively planning on using a laser on an aircraft," FBI spokesman Bill Carter said. "It's been discussed [by terrorists.] The fact there is information that has been discussed by terrorist groups is what interests us."
On a visit to the FAA's Oklahoma City research facility, Mineta said he would try to improve labeling on lasers sold to the public to include warnings about the dangers of pointing them at planes.
The Transportation Department said that even simple laser pointers can be a hazard. The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to parents and school officials in 1997 about the dangers of children aiming laser pointers at their eyes. In recent years, more powerful lasers have become widely available and affordable for uses such as astronomy and light shows. The FDA said it is not considering requiring labels to warn about the dangers of pointing lasers at aircraft.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it would "very seriously" look at the issue with the Transportation Department and other agencies.
"The reason this is happening now is because green lasers are becoming more prevalent," said Dean DeHarpporte, president of Onpoint Lasers Inc. of Minneapolis. The company sells the more visible green lasers for $99 on the Internet.
DeHarpporte said he would not oppose additional warnings about aiming lasers at planes, but he is skeptical that laser pointers could really do much damage to one's eyes. His green laser pointers can be visible in the sky for up to two miles, but the beam spreads over an area of 12 feet at that altitude, he said. "If [new labels will] cost me more money, I suppose I'd be against it," he said. "If it keeps people from pointing it at planes, it if saves lives and eye damage, then I'd understand."
Maybe I'm skeptical but the above doesn't sound like a satisfactory solution to me.
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