The Federal Bureau of Investigation is cracking down on laser strikes, which can leave pilots temporarily blinded.
“When it hits the glass of the cockpit, it flares out and really kind of blinds the pilot from whichever direction the lights coming at,” said Frank Wright, Safety Director at Careflite.
Pilots in North Texas reported 90 laser strikes in 2013, and another 34 through May 15 of this year.
The FBI is offering a reward up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of anyone who aims a laser pointer at an aircraft.
“The majority are not doing this maliciously,” said Diego Rodriguez, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Dallas Division. “People don’t realize the severity of what it is that they’re doing and the consequences.”
Working with local police and other agencies, the FBI will also lead a public awareness campaign, featuring digital billboards, online information and public service announcements.
“Educationally, we need to get out there,” said Rodriguez. “We’re working with resource police officers from different schools as well to educate the young children that might think this is a toy.”
A pilot program launched in 12 cities earlier this year, including Houston and San Antonio, saw a 19 percent decrease in laser strikes.
“The guys that typically points lasers are somebody out just saying, 'I wonder how far this thing will reach. Let’s see if I can reach that aircraft,'” said Wright. “I really support education and helping people understand what you can potentially do to a flight crew, whether it’s a commercial aircraft or a CareFlite helicopter.”
The reward is being offered for 90 days, but the public awareness campaign will last longer.