Houston near top of list of airline laser pointer incidents

A new program was created to stop people from pointing lasers at airplanes because they can be dangerous for pilots
February 10, 2014 10:00:00 PM PST
It happens more often than you probably think -- someone pointing a laser at a plane. In fact, it's a big problem in the Houston area and now the FBI is offering a pretty hefty reward to anyone who reports a laser incident.

It's become a growing threat in the skies.

"Airline pilots have known that this has been a problem for some years now," said Captain Sean Cassidy.

The threat is an inexpensive laser pointer. In the wrong hands, the FAA says lasers have become a serious threat to aircrafts during take-off and landing.

"All of a sudden, we see this green flash," said commercial pilot, Mark Crystal.

Crystal said his aircraft was recently hit with a laser while approaching the Louisville Airport.

"I think that it's bunch of people that don't know what they're doing, thinking that it's a game," Crystal said.

In 2013, Houston ranked number two in aircraft laser attacks. Some 126 incidents were reported. Portland topped the list. Nationwide, there were nearly 40,000 reported cases. Texas accounted for about 400 of those.

"These aren't really toys. They're useful tools," said business owner Darrin Lewer.

Lewer sells low watt laser pointers. Most of his clients use them to point out constellations. He showed us how the laser can not only temporarily blind a pilot, but also turn the aircraft's windshield green.

"This is the type of thing that kids do. It's stupid but it can have deadly consequences," said Harris County DA Devon Anderson.

Local and federal prosecutors are now promising to prosecute those who threaten airliners. Billboards are also going up to stop the laser threats.

Crime Stoppers is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who gives information that leads to an arrest in this type of crime. If convicted, this crime carries a max punishment of up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Find Foti on Facebook at ReporterFotiKallergis or on Twitter at @FotiKallergis

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