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FBI Steps Up Efforts To Catch Those Pointing Lasers Into Cockpits

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While you’re sitting in your seat during takeoff or landing, your flight’s pilot might be blinded by a laser shining into his or her eyes.

As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported, “lasing” — when someone on the ground shines a laser pointer into the cockpit of a low-flying aircraft — has become a major concern, and the FBI is stepping up efforts to catch the culprits before a plane crashes.

The most recent incident happened over New York on Tuesday. A pilot was injured when a laser was beamed into his cockpit near Port Jefferson, Long Island.

Nationwide, there were more than 3,900 lasing incidents in 2013 — 99 in the New York City area alone.

Pilot Robert Hamilton said he’s been a victim five times, most recently causing temporary blindness and painful retinal burning for hours.

“To have your vision taken away causes a tremendous amount of distraction and chaos in the flight deck,” Hamilton said.

Data obtained exclusively by CBS 2 and TV 10/55 show the locations where recent lasing incidents originated. Three were beamed from Staten Island. One came from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Another was recorded in the Bronx, just nort of LaGuardia Airport. And three orginated from the Port Washington area of Long Island.

With three major airports in the region, the danger only deepens. A radar image from FlightAware.com shows how congested airspace is — a reality that requires a pilot’s complete focus.

A screen capture from FlightAware.com shows flight traffic in the Tri-State area.

A screen capture from FlightAware.com shows flight traffic in the Tri-State area.

Lasing is such a big problem that the FBI has created a task force to investigate incidents. Lawmakers recently made the crime a federal felony.

The FBI has rolled out an online and on-air anti-lasing campaign and is now offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrests.

If you have any information about a lasing case, you may make an anonymous tip at 212-384-1000.

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