CENTRAL TEXAS (April 1, 2014) The Federal Aviation Administration has recorded 13,869 different incidents across the nation since 2010, where someone has purposefully aimed a high-powered laser towards the cockpit of an aircraft.
Doing this can incapacitate or disorient a pilot, creating serious safety risks for any aircraft especially ones carrying hundreds of passengers.
"It's not so much disorientation as it is an inability to see out of the cockpit. I don't know about you but I like it when my pilot can see where we're going," FAA Spokesperson Lynn Lunsford said.
"We have pilots who are hit with a laser strike and they report seeing spots in front of their eyes and on rare occasions we've had reports of injuries that require medical treatment."
There have been no reported crashes because of a laser being aimed at an aircraft, but the FAA is still raising great concern over how many laser incidents they’ve recorded over the past 4 years.
In 2012, illuminating a laser at an aircraft was declared a federal crime. If caught, you could face up to 5 years behind bars. The FAA can also slap you with an $11,000 fine.
According to annual reports released by the FAA, incidents where lasers have been pointed at aircraft cockpits have been on the rise in Waco and Killeen.
The cities are home to a combination of general aviation, commercial and military airports.
In 2010, only five laser incidents were recorded in Killeen, and one was recorded in Waco.
From then to now, with 2010 numbers included, 13 laser incidents have been recorded in Killeen, and 19 have been recorded in Waco.
A recent laser incident in April 2013, ended with the arrest of an Elm Mott man according to the Department of Public Safety.
DPS says the man was jailed when a laser was aimed at their helicopter that was providing air support near the man’s neighborhood.
The numbers in Central Texas aren’t as drastic as what’s been recorded in other areas of the state with major airports, like Dallas or Houston, but they haven’t seen a decrease over the years.
Lunsford says now that high-powered lasers are becoming easier to find and more affordable, they want to be upfront about the consequences someone might face if they aim one at an aircraft.
“The worst case scenario is a crash resulting from a laser strike, and that's something both the FAA and the FBI takes very seriously," Lunsford said.