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FAA to issue civil penalties for pointing lasers into aircraft cockpits

June 1, 2011

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Washington – People caught directing a laser pointer into an aircraft cockpit now face civil penalties for jeopardizing the safety of airline crews and passengers, officials with the Federal Aviation Administration announced June 1.

FAA also released a memorandum (.pdf file) stating that directing a laser at an aircraft from the ground constitutes interference with a crewmember and is an FAA violation. Agency officials say laser illumination could seriously impair a pilot’s vision and interfere with a flight crew’s ability to safely handle its responsibilities.

According to a press release, the maximum civil penalty FAA can impose on an individual caught interfering with a flight crew is $11,000 per violation.

Nationwide, pilots have reported more than 1,100 incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft this year. Pilots reported 2,836 such incidents in 2010 and 1,527 in 2009. At press time, legislation that would criminalize the act was pending action by Congress.

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