FBI Investigates Laser Pointer Attacks on Airline Pilots

Robin Lund/Shutterstock.com

Pilots at New York City's LaGuardia airport were temporarily blinded.

As if airplane pilots didn't already have enough to worry about, they're now facing record levels of attacks from laser pointers while landing their planes.

The FBI's terrorism unit is investigating two incidents last week at New York City's LaGuardia airport in which airplane pilots were temporarily blinded by green lights shone from several miles away. They are thought to have come from small, handheld laser pointers, such as the battery-powered ones often used in classrooms. Laser lights that hit at a particular angle can illuminate the whole cockpit with a bright green or red light, and blind the pilots as they're trying to land.

Things are so bad that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) even has a webpage about the problem, explaining how pilots can mitigate its effects, and laying out its potential costs. The lasers have never caused a crash, but they can disorient pilots at crucial moments. "It can blur the vision basically, it can fog the vision of the cockpit when you're looking out the glass so it's much harder to look out the glass and identify locations where you're going," FBI special agent Rich Frankel told CBS.

The two incidents last week are part of a disconcerting trend. Laser pointer incidents are up 17 percent in New York City from last year, and a whopping 1,100 percent across the US since 2005.

Read the full story on Quartz.

(Image via Robin Lund/Shutterstock.com)