FBI Cleveland
Special Agent Vicki D. Anderson
(216) 522-1400
September 9, 2015

Public Service Reminder

The Cleveland Division of the FBI would like to remind the public of the dangers and consequences of pointing a laser at an airplane, jet, or helicopter. The malicious use of laser strikes against aircrafts continues to be a concern for the aviation industry and law enforcement throughout the United States.

Over this past weekend, Friday, September 4 through Sunday, September 6, there were five laser strikes in the Cleveland Division of the FBI’s area of responsibility.

  • Friday, September 4—two aircraft experienced laser hits, a commercial airliner and a medical flight helicopter
  • Saturday, September 5—a medical helicopter experienced a laser strike as it was leaving the Youngstown area heading towards Cleveland
  • Sunday, September 6—a medical helicopter experienced a laser strike as it was leaving the Youngstown area heading towards Cleveland
  • Sunday, September 6—a commercial aircraft experienced a laser strike after takeoff from Cleveland Hopkins airport.

There was a reduction of aircraft laser strikes in 2014; the reduction is believed to be related to the collective laser awareness efforts completed during the 2014 year. We are asking media outlets to assist us in reminding the public the following facts about pointing a laser at an aircraft.

The main hazard for aviation is that pilots can be distracted or temporarily flash-blinded by the light from a laser beam. The light often is a large light at aviation distances, unlike the tiny dot a laser makes at close range. Individuals often do not realize that traveling over hundreds of feet, a tiny, two-centimeter laser beam spreads to become approximately six feet of light that can block a pilot’s vision. Most laser strike incidents reported occur at flights under 10,000 feet with the highest percentage being altitudes under 6,000 feet.

Laser strikes are investigated by local and federal law enforcement. Under 18 USC 39 (A), whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. Under 49 USC Section 46301 (a) (5) (A), the FAA may seek a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation for aiming a laser at an aircraft in violation of C.F.R. Section 91.11.

The FBI and our law enforcement partners are asking that citizens be aware of the dangers of pointing a laser pointer towards an aircraft (commercial, private, helicopters, Life Flights, etc.). If a citizen witnesses an individual pointing a laser at an aircraft, they should report the occurrence to their local police department. The reporting of the incident by a citizen will often coincide with the reporting by a pilot to FAA authorities.

The FBI and our law enforcement partners are asking the public if they have any knowledge of the laser strikes that occurred this past weekend to please call your local law enforcement agency or the Cleveland Division of the FBI, 216-522-1400. Tips can remain anonymous and reward money is available for the successful identification and prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for these laser strikes.

Any questions regarding this news release can be directed to SA Vicki D. Anderson at the Cleveland Office of the FBI, 216-522-1400 or Vicki.anderson@ic.fbi.gov.