4 more planes report laser pointer incidents over New Jersey and Pennsylvania

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Friday, July 17, 2015
12 flights report being lit by lasers over NJ
Stacey Sager reports

NEWARK (WABC) -- Four more pilots reported lasers were pointed at their airplanes Thursday night, one night after a dozen incidents reported.

The FAA said the reports came in from planes flying over New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The incidents happened between 9 and 10:30 p.m.

One pilot reported an injury, but no specific details were released.

The new incidents were :

- ExpressJet 4565, arriving at Newark, at 8,500 feet, over the Stroudsburg-Pocono, PA area.

- FedEx Flight 1607, departing Newark, at 2,000 feet, six miles southwest of Newark at 2,000 feet. One pilot reported an injury.

- Shuttle America 5956, arriving at LaGuardia, at 9,000 feet, seven miles northeast of Robbinsville, N.J.

- United Airlines Flight 369, arriving at LaGuardia, at 9,000 feet seven miles east of Robbinsville, N.J.

On Wednesday, 12 different pilots reported laser incidents while flying near Newark-Liberty Airport in New Jersey. During that time, the tower eventually changed the approach path after determining where the laser was being pointed from.

Authorities said laser pointers are a growing problem with aircraft. Newark had 28 reported laser-pointing incidents last year, with the most recent two coming in March.

Last May, four planes departing from Kennedy Airport reported their aircrafts were targeted by a laser, shined from Farmingdale, during the same time period.

Pointing a laser into a cockpit is a federal crime that carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The FAA said 11 commercial flights reported that lasers illuminated their aircraft Wednesday night.

The FAA released a summary of the incidents from Wednesday:

-Porter 141 was at 3,000 feet 15 miles southwest of Newark Liberty International Airport;

-American Airlines 1472 was 20 miles southwest of Newark Airport;

-United Airlines was at 9,000 feet seven miles from Newark Airport;

-American Airlines 966 was at 3,00 feet 15 miles south of Newark Airport;

-Delta Air Lines 504, Shuttle America 3489 and JetBlue 828 were at 3,000 feet four miles south of the Outerbridge Crossing;

-Shuttle America 3489, a Newark arrival, was at 3,000 feet, four miles south of the Outerbridge Crossing;

-JetBlue 828, a Newark arrival, was at 3,000 feet, four miles south of the Outerbridge Crossing;

-JetBlue 2779 did not report its location;

-American Airlines 348 was at 9,000 feet over New Jersey heading to LaGuardia Airport;

-Republic Airlines 4643 reported it was at 9,000 feet seven miles northeast of Robbinsville. The flight was heading to Pittsburgh, PA;

-GoJet 6201, a LaGuardia arrival, was at 9,000 feet, 10 miles north of Robbinsville;

-A US Coast Guard aircraft was at 3,000 feet over Ocean City.

"The most danger is the loss of focus in the cockpit. The possible blindness of the pilot," said retired airline pilot J.P. Tristani. "All these aircraft below 10,000 feet are in the approach to landing mode, that means heads down looking at instrumentation, looking down at digital displays. That means that flare, that flashbulb effect hits the cockpit, you have blindness, loss of focus at better than 400 feet per second. That's also danger to other aircraft in the proximity."

The FBI reports that one of the pilots in the incidents Wednesday night was temporarily blinded and is now experiencing blurred vision as a result.

Some of the incidences were viewed at different locations over the state, leading to investigative speculation that more than one person was involved. The FBI did say the pilots' main job is to fly the plane and not pinpoint the location where the laser came from.

"We are really not sure how many people are out there. Again, this happened last night so the investigation is ongoing at this point, we have anywhere from four to six incidents," said Richard Frankel, FBI Newark.

Airlines and unions will continue to work together to help educate pilots and provide robust reporting mechanisms and seek cooperation among the public, law enforcement agencies and airports.