U.S. Senator Kirk/Whitehouse pass Amendment to protect aircraft

FAA says pilot complaints about lasers pointed at their aircraft nearly doubled in 2010 compared to year before
 

Washington, DC – As the Senate takes up the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill this week, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) joined Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in introducing an amendment to crack down on individuals who shine laser pointers at aircraft–an action that can temporarily blind pilots and put passengers at risk.
 
The bipartisan amendment would make it a crime to knowingly aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, and subject violators to fines or imprisonment for up to 5 years.  The bill exempts those using lasers for legitimate aviation purposes, such as research and development, training, or emergency signaling.  
 
The amendment passed 96-to-1.  The FAA bill will continue to be debated by the Senate. 
 
“This bipartisan effort is a simple solution to a life-threatening game of targeting airplanes with lasers, which continues to be on the rise,” Senator Kirk said.  “I hope this amendment serves as a wake-up call to violators and curbs this dangerous practice.”
 
According to the FAA, the number of reports of lasers being pointed at airplanes nearly doubled in 2010, to more than 2,800.  In 2010, Los Angeles International Airport had the highest number of laser events of any individual airport with 102 incidents.  O’Hare International Airport had 98 incidents—second highest in the nation—and the Theodore Francis Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., had 12 incidents.
 
Officials said the increase in incidents appears to be caused by the increasing availability of new, high-powered laser devices.
 
The Air Line Pilots Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, and the Rhode Island Pilots Association supported the Kirk/Whitehouse amendment.  Companion bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), was favorably reported by the House Judiciary Committee last month.