FBI launches national campaign to address laser threat to aircraft

Published On: Jun 03 2014 01:49:01 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 03 2014 07:06:53 PM CDT

After discovering a dangerous growing trend, the FBI is launching a national campaign and upping the reward for anyone who helps them catch individuals who aim a laser beam at an aircraft.

This comes after a successful pilot program launched in February of 2014. The pilot program was aimed at educating the public about the dangers of pointing lasers at aircraft, informing them that it's a violation of federal law and offering a monetary reward for anyone who helped lead to the arrest of those who have broken this law. Originally the pilot program was only offered in 12 FBI field offices. The new campaign is a national program, encompassing all 56 FBI field offices.

Since 2005, the FBI and FAA have been tracking laser strikes and have seen those numbers jump dramatically. In 2012, there were 283 reported laser strikes. Just one year later in 2013, that number jumped to 3,960 reported strikes.

The problem also exists in Wichita. Officials with Mid-Continent Airport report pilots flying in or out of Wichita experienced 23 strikes in 2013, more than double from the 10 laser strikes reported in 2012.

When pointed at the cockpit of an aircraft, laser strikes can not only be harmful to the pilot's eyes, but it also makes it difficult for a pilot to see while flying making it dangerous for everyone on board the plane and on the ground.  

"It's not just about putting those aircraft in danger or those pilots in danger but we also are safety minded as far as flying over this community," said Lt. Col. Stephen Matthews, who also serves as a pilot at McConnell Air Force Base. "So realize that folks do need to take this seriously."

The FBI hopes the campaign teaches people about the dangers of "lasing" and of the legal consequences. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a violation of federal law and if caught, a violator could face up to five years in federal prison.

Part of the campaign also includes a reward from the FBI of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of anyone who aims a laser at an aircraft. That reward is only available for 90 days following the launch of the campaign.