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FBI: $10,000 Reward For Info On Anyone Who Points a Laser At an Aircraft 445

Posted by timothy
from the issue-sunglasses dept.
coondoggie writes "Here's a good idea: The FBI has launched a targeted, 60-day program that will offer up to a $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft. The FBI said the laser-pointing scourge continues to grow at an alarming rate. Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration began tracking laser strikes in 2005, there has been ridiculous 1,000% increase in the number of laser pointing/aircraft incidents. Last year, 3,960 laser strikes against aircraft were reported — an average of almost 11 incidents per day."
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FBI: $10,000 Reward For Info On Anyone Who Points a Laser At an Aircraft

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  • The laser incidents are so numerous that it will be impossible to deal with the problem by prosecutions. It seems to me that a problem that cannot be solved by stopping the perpetrators needs to be solved a different way, such as designing planes to not be vulnerable to the lasers.

    • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @02:59PM (#46220133)

      This is very definitely a good idea, however I don't mind also taking morons who are deliberately messing with a vehicle carrying dozens to hundreds of live human beings and giving them a time out in a cell to think about why that's a stupid thing to do.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      I think the right answer is Hellfire missiles equipped to track lasers...

      • by ganjadude (952775)
        That would be entertaining but look at the potential implications

        Someone who doesnt like lets say, america is in lets say, a tower in some city, lets say NYC. And they point a laser at a plane, which in turn shoots a hellfire missile at the empire stat building.

        Too many potential issues with such a plan
    • There are a large number of ways that unskilled idiots can cause damage and loss of life. Oil on mountain road curves. Metal debris on railway tracks. Rocks dropped from highway overpasses. Poison in supermarket food. We can't use technology to protect against all of these. Lasers are a tricky problem since they are available in a variety of wavelengths, it isn't easy to make a filter that will stop all of them.

  • by crmanriq (63162) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @02:52PM (#46220041)

    Okay, so an el-cheapo red laser pointer at a range of 500 ft (Aircraft on approach).

    Daylight - Can the pilot even see it?

    Night time. At 500 feet, is it even as bright as his instrument lights? Between dust and moisture vapor is the beam even still anywhere close to focused?

    Yeah, I know people can go and by multi-watt green lasers that can pop balloons from 100 yards. But to say that an el-cheapo red light wielded with harmless intent should be subject to the same penalties as a multi-watt laser wielded with intent to disrupt/harm seems to be going the whole zero-tolerance BS route.

    I'm curious. Has anyone ever actually caused harm in US airspace with a laser pointer yet? Or are we creating a crime around something that has never caused harm?

    • The problem with the wait until a plane crash formula is that during the congressional hearings, prior knowledge of a threat should be enough to kill the career of a bureaucrat.

      Proactive overreaction is how your government has been conditioned to respond.

      Realistic concerns like budgetary constraints are foreign to them.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Harm? well Helicopter pilots have been forced to land, and some have been temporarily blinded.

      As for the rest of your argument, let me introduce you to my little friend:
      http://www.wickedlasers.com/ar... [wickedlasers.com]

      No all lasers are .005 watt pointers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BasilBrush (643681)

        And here's the pilots little friend.

        http://www.iridian.ca/english/... [iridian.ca]

      • by crmanriq (63162)

        Which is why I specifically differentiated between the two in my post. There's a difference between driving at a reasonable speed and speeding. There's a difference between talking and a jet engine. There a difference between a harmless act and a harmful act.

        Is it necessary to prosecute everyone who aims a laser pointer at a plane, or only those who aim multiwatt devices at cockpit windows?

        I've had moron teenagers point a red laser at me at night while driving. It was annoying, but it did not make me cr

    • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @03:13PM (#46220353)

      Based on my experience with these things at a beach, yes, they're very bright at night, and far, far brighter than instrument lights. I'm not talking $5 laser pointer, but $30 higher output (still tens of mW) toys.

      I'm curious. Has anyone ever actually caused harm in US airspace with a laser pointer yet? Or are we creating a crime around something that has never caused harm?

      Has anyone ever caused harm on US highways with a laser pointer? If not, is it ok if they hang around on your route home and shine it in your eyes as you drive by? Again, based on my experience at the beach, having these things shined in my eyes as I'm driving would be a problem and a hazard. Does someone actually have to be hurt or killed before we say stop?

      • Does someone actually have to be hurt or killed before we say stop?

        Generally speaking, yes. There are an infinite number of potentially harmful or lethal things. Society usually waits until they've shown themselves to be actually harmful or legal.

      • by bonehead (6382) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @03:53PM (#46221035)

        Does someone actually have to be hurt or killed before we say stop?

        Well, given that HID headlamps are still legal, the answer seems to be "Yes".

    • Yes, it is really a problem. Why are you focusing on the red laser pointers when you acknowledge that the green ones are a problem? Seems a bit like asking if there's really a problem with gun crime because NERF doesn't hurt (if NERF and real guns were on a continuum, which they aren't really).

      But to say that an el-cheapo red light wielded with harmless intent should be subject to the same penalties...

      Is anyone saying that?

      • by crmanriq (63162)

        But to say that an el-cheapo red light wielded with harmless intent should be subject to the same penalties...

        Is anyone saying that?

        Well, yes. As it is now, the El-Cheapo(tm) 5 mW red laser pointer is subject to the same $10K penalty as the 2-Watt green laser.

        So to use your analogy - it is as though we are treating NERF(tm) guns the same as hunting rifles.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @02:55PM (#46220079)

    1) Own a Cessna.

    2) Aim a laser at it in the safety of your hangar.

    3) ???

    4) Profit!!!

    • 1) Own a Cessna.

      2) Aim a laser at it in the safety of your hangar.

      3) ???

      4) Profit!!!

      And then be arrested for doing something that should be legal, but isn't.

      • 1) Own a Cessna.

        2) Aim a laser at it in the safety of your hangar.

        3) ???

        4) Profit!!!

        And then be arrested for doing something that should be legal, but isn't.

        It should be legal to fire lasers at planes and endanger the people aboard? Or did you mean at your own plane while it is on the ground?

    • by LoRdTAW (99712)

      1) Own a Cessna.

      2) Have mother-in-law aim a laser at it in the safety of your hangar.

      3) call FBI

      4) Profit ... Twice!!!

      There. Fixed that for you.

  • I think people must be doing this out of boredom. With fun lasers like these [trinaryproducts.com] people can find more constructive things to do with them.

  • If they take "dare" you're $1000 richer. Just make sure you videotape them for proof so it can lead to an arrest. I see a potential to make a lot of money and to widdle down the stupid pool all in one shot here...
    • Downside: You must endanger the lives of hundreds of innocents (or more if the plane crashes into a stadium or something).

      • I'm not endangering anyone. The idiot with the laser pointer is. I'm simply taking advantage of his stupidity to make a quick buck. :P
  • According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] it's only a real danger when the aircraft are on final approach and below 4000ft. In this case, the person with the laser should know better and it should be easier to find them. Even kids can imagine it's not good to blind or distract the pilot when they are trying to land. When the plane is cruising at 30k feet, I doubt this is even visible much less a problem.
    • In this case, the person with the laser should know better and it should be easier to find them.

      That's your answer? Lasers aren't really a problem because the people using them should know better, and they should be easy to catch? Good one!

    • It's not overblown because it is happening on landing and approach, otherwise it wouldn't be noticed. And no people are not smart enough to not attempt mass murder.

  • Simple (Score:4, Funny)

    by The Cat (19816) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @03:08PM (#46220275)

    Felony prosecution. 25 years to life. No parole. Must register on the "laser pointing offenders" list. Driver's license suspended. Credit Score cut to one. Automatic bankruptcy. All assets forfeited. House fuel air bombed, bulldozed, soil salted and paved over with pig iron, rocks and low grade cement.

    Must stand on a chair and sing the "I AM A VERY BAD PERSON" song while applying for any job. Five million dollar fine paid in equal daily installments for 35 years. Not allowed to date, marry or smile at anyone.

    Must appear in at least five television commercials a year (at own expense) to announce "I am a poopy face" while dressed up like a cartoon airplane and being physically kicked in the ass by a sunglasses-wearing security officer with a blinking overlay of name and social security number.

    If not 18 yet, then the parents and grandparents are all prosecuted instead.

    And no laughing.

  • There are no ground-facing windows to the best of my knowledge, and on the flight deck it's practically impossible to see much below the aircraft (at least from the Pilot's seat).

    Perhaps someone from one of the airlines or better still the FAA could demonstrate just how disruptive a laser pointer is to flight operations? At 30,000 feet, I suspect that 2-3mm beam will already be scattered to several feet (with an attendant loss of intensity). On takeoff or final approach somebody might be able to paint th

    • by hax4bux (209237)

      The world is bigger than "jumbo jets". When the police or medical services come, they are not driving a "jumbo jet" - and yes there are documented cases of of helicopter crews being incapacitated from a laser incident.

      • When lasers get pointed at police helicopters, the pilots respond by heading closer to the laser to identify the position for ground cops to follow up on. Doesn't sound like they are that incapacitated.

    • oh no .. common sense? That's probably a 25K fine. And those who "cite" anything just keep ranting about "some helicopter pilot who was incapacitated". Perhaps the laser "attack" was just an excuse for something else? Or a desire to get attention? It would hardly be the first time someone claimed injury for publicity.

      • by hax4bux (209237)

        Google "helicopter laser pointer" - first item to pop up

        http://www.wfaa.com/news/local... [wfaa.com]

        Is this good enough for you? There are others...

        • I Googled "laser pointer helicopter" and the first results were exactly what I expected: images of this famous scene [mashable.com] from the Egyption protests awhile back. The pilot apparently suffered no harm, and I think it's safe to say that as far as aircraft pilots go, he's probably had more laser pointers pointed at him than pretty much anyone else ever.

  • So we should ban green laser pointers, right? Clearly, they're the problem since this wasn't happening when red pointers were all but the only option. No. The problem is that pilots, in the pitch black of night can see beams of green laser pointers off somewhere in the distance. With no useful reference for actual distance and nothing else in the night sky to compare it to, the pilots assume they're very nearby and must be being pointed at them. I have no doubt that some aircraft have had a beam enter the c

  • Wow, I'm gonna get rich at Bonnaroo this year! Every time the damn medical helicopter, photography helicopter, or sheriff's plane goes near the festival grounds, multiple people point green lasers at them. Gotta make sure to get the number of the local FBI field office, I guess. I'm not sure how musicians are never blinded at music festivals, since there are always idiots pointing lasers everywhere.
  • Sounds like a great money-making scheme to me. Get some drugged up homeless guy convinced it's a space ship and that he'd be helping to shoot it down and then capture the video on your phone for evidence and poof! $10,000!

  • I know what all the neighborhood hooligans are getting for Christmas! LASER POINTERS!

    I also know what I'll be getting for New Years, $10,000!

  • Lasers are light, not magic. If you block the laser beam you block its frequency (color) of light. If you block all the possible laser frequencies I'm pretty sure the cockpit isn't going to be nearly as transparent, which is kind of the point of the cockpit. Raising the awareness that this is stupid and dangerous is a perfectly reasonable way to address the problem. A conviction shouldn't ruin someone's life forever but it sure as hell should make them and anyone that hears about it not want to do this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by BasilBrush (643681)

      Just issue the pilots with anti-laser glasses. They can choose for themselves when to filter and when not to.

  • by Lehk228 (705449)
    they should authorize jets to carry laser guided bombs
  • If i don't like my black/muslim/spanish/different-in-some-way neighbors, or the boyfriend of the girl i want, i can just report them as pointing a laser to a passing aircraft. In the worst case i could say that I mistook a keychain for a laser pointer. In the best case, i will get $10.000, and could get rid of that neighbor because he will be victim of authorities/nsa confirmation bias [aljazeera.com].

    And it could work in both ways, if you don't want that nasty redneck falsely accuse you, you can accuse him first. In any

    • The worst case you get caught for filing a false police report, which is a significant crime that can lead to long jail-time.

      You could as easily falsely accuse your neighbour of threatening your life, or abusing you physically, or hatching a bomb plot, or dumping a dead body off a nearby river-bridge, or raping you, or whatever. In practice, most intentionally-false reports appear to be extremely rare.

  • Is it any of the cheap units professors use, or it is some kind of powerful hobby version?

  • by azav (469988) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @04:18PM (#46221369) Homepage Journal

    When the laser hits the glass/plexiglass, it spreads all around the cabin, making it near impossible to see and possibly temporarily blinding the pilot.

    It's pretty damn dangerous.

  • by nhtshot (198470) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @11:13PM (#46225399) Homepage

    Night landings are, by their nature, more difficult and more dangerous than daytime landings. Assuming visual conditions, nearly everything is dependent upon being able to continuously see runway lights. About 10 minutes prior to landing, the standard procedure is to dim everything in the cockpit to it's lowest setting. The goal of this is to make sure the pilot's eyes are dilated as much as possible to see the runway lights and land safely.

    About 5 years ago, I was landing at Chicago Dupage airport. About 1 mile from the runway threshold and about 500 ft above the ground, I was repeatedly hit by a bright red laser. Immediately after the first bright flash from the laser, I felt like I'd just walked from daylight into a dark room. I couldn't see anything. I couldn't see any instruments (Remember, they're all dimmed as low as possible) and the runway lights were suddenly very dim. After the second and third time, I couldn't see the runway lights anymore. My only choice was to add power, pull up and hope that I was still flying straight. I overflew most of the airport and remember finally getting good vision back about the time I was over the subdivision north of the airport. That subdivision is about 3 miles from where it all started. I turned over the subdivision and landed on a perpendicular runway.

    I then released a torrent of profanities and considered all of the most painful ways to kill someone if I could ever find the #@(#*$@(#*$@(*##$(@* that hit me with that laser.

    I'm all for higher penalties for this crap. It's probably already killed people. We don't know for sure because plane crash victims don't tend to be very talkative.

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