Five years after the Federal Aviation Administration raised the alarm that Bay Area incidents of aircraft pilots "shot" by laser pointers were at an unprecedented rate, reports of area residents shining the lights at planes continue apace, with 243 so far this year, and 20 this week alone.
According to ABC7, so far this year people have beamed lasers at pilots flying to/from SFO 78 times, 96 times at San Jose's airport, and 69 times in Oakland.
While some might feel that this is a harmless prank, the FAA takes a different view, saying that "No accidents have been attributed to the illumination of crewmembers by lasers, but given the sizeable number of reports and debilitating effects that can accompany such events, the potential does exist." That's why the penalties for anyone caught shining a laser at a plane can be up to five years in prison and fines as great as $250,000.
And people can and do get nabbed for the laser pointing! You might recall this San Jose man busted by a search helicopter in 2011, and techniques for catching scofflaws have only improved, Pilot Chris Zwingle tells ABC7.
"Some of the resolution on law enforcement cameras is tremendous, Zwingle says, "and they can identify the people, definitely get the location immediately."