Dangerous! Laser Aimed At 6 NYC-Bound Planes

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NEW YORK – The Federal Aviation Administration is urging witnesses to contact police after someone aimed a green laser at six airliners as they landed at LaGuardia airport over the weekend.

Lasers can blind or distract pilots. The laser came from a point about five miles southwest of the airport.

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On Friday night, it hit commuter jets operated by Continental, U.S. Airways, American Eagle and Transtates Airlines, which operates shuttle flights for both United and U.S. Airways. The strikes occurred between 6:06 p.m. and 7:56 p.m.

On Saturday, the laser hit a Continental commuter jet and a United Airlines Boeing 757, both around 7 p.m. The planes were between 1,600 and 2,500 feet above New York at the time.

All of the airliners landed safely, FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac said.

The FAA is asking anyone with information about the laser to contact police or send an email to LaserReports(at)faa.gov.

Laser strikes have become a serious problem in the U.S., as handheld laser pointers have become cheaper and more powerful. Manufacturers have also introduced green lasers, which are more visible than red ones.

The number of planes hit by lasers rose from 283 in 2005 to 2,836 in 2010.

As of Oct. 20 there had been 2,795 laser strikes in 2011. Pilots in Phoenix have reported the most, with 96 there. Philadelphia was second with 95 and Chicago was third with 83.

In June, the FAA began imposing fines of up $11,000 against people caught shining lasers at planes, and its lawyers are now pursuing 18 such cases.

Because there is no specific law against laser strikes, the FAA has been using an administrative rule that allows it to punish people who interfere with a flight crew performing its duties. The agency is also asking Congress to pass a law making laser strikes a crime.

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