More planes report laser beam distractions

April 20, 2010 7:32:05 AM PDT
The JetBlue flight out of Portland Maine had just been cleared to land at JFK Saturday evening when suddenly the pilots were distracted by an intensely bright green laser.

PILOT: There's a laser off to the left hitting JetBlue 607. It's green. It's on the water.
TOWER: I'm sorry 607. Say that again.
PILOT: Yeah, JetBlue 607. We saw a green laser coming from left about 10 miles straight out there. It was kind of inside the harbor.

The plane filled with 51 passengers landed safely. Aware of the potential danger from lasers, the tower inquired further.

TOWER: Were they pointing it at you?
PILOT: Directly pointing right at us. I saw the flash to the left looked, looked out left as I was landing. Put my head down, put up the sun screen.

Eyewitness News has learned this plane was the third to have a laser beam pointed into its cockpit at JFK on Saturday. It happened again on Sunday at LaGuardia. Now, the FBI is investigating.

"Interfering with a flight crew is a federal crime, interfering with aviation. So, the FBI has looked into many of these laser incidents over the last several years. We've located some of them, arrested some and several have been prosecuted," Richard Kolko, FBI Supervisory Special Agent, said.

Four years ago, a New Jersey man was sentenced to two years probation for shining a hand-held laser into the cockpit of a passenger plane at Teterboro. The NASA data base is filled with laser incidents that underscore the danger. Some pilots reporting blurred vision, even damage to the retina.

"There have been pilots that have been seriously injured." Robert Ober said.

In a Skype interview, the retired airline pilot said there's no worse time than landing to get hit by a laser.

"Your eyes are looking inside and outside. You need all the visual cues you can get. If both pilots simultaneously are looking at this thing assuming it was wide enough to affect both pilots you would have real serious problems," Ober said.

The hand-held lasers used by construction workers, teachers, and business people are becoming more powerful and easy to get. That's why the number of these laser cases is on the rise.