The FBI has stepped up its efforts to squelch laser pointer incidents by assigning the investigation of two recent attacks to its Joint Terrorism Task Force. Two different aircraft last week became the targets for laser pointer attacks at New York’s La Guardia Airport. No cockpit crewmembers were injured in either incident.
Two airliners, as well as a privately operated helicopter, were targeted with laser pointers between 9:30 and 10 p.m. on August 15 as they approached Newark Liberty International Airport (KEWR) in New Jersey. The helicopter was 10 miles south of the airport at 1,600 feet at the time of the incident. A 737 and an ERJ-135 were illuminated approximately one mile east of Teterboro Airport (KTEB) while on final approach to EWR at 3,000 feet.
A U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Fla., on August 1 sentenced Tyler Pennywitt to one year of probation and 50 hours of community service for deliberately shining a laser pointer at a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office helicopter in June last year.
In another example of the government’s pushback against laser threats to aviation, a federal grand jury in Jacksonville, Fla., indicted John Tyler Pennywitt on October 5. He was accused of shining a handheld laser pointer at a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office helicopter on the night of June 3, 2012. Pennywitt was indicted under a section of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that makes it a federal crime to aim a laser at an aircraft, or even into the path of an aircraft.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority reported last week that the incidence of laser pointers being aimed at aircraft in that country’s airspace is on the rise, mostly during takeoff and landing. Last year 175 incidents were recorded. So far this year there have been 170, indicating a higher total for 2012.
The FAA launched a new website today where pilots and others can report incidents of lasers being shined at aircraft. It includes links for reporting laser incidents, laser statistics and FAA research on the dangers lasers can pose to pilots.
A Lakeland, Fla. man faces 20 years in prison after aiming his laser pointer at a Polk County sheriffπs helicopter conducting a search-and-rescue mission. The laser caused the flight crew to become disoriented and abort the mission.