Blinded by the Light: FAA Warns Pilots of Laser Dangers

VIDEO: Laser Hazards at Airports
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Federal Aviation Administration officials are investigating a rash of incidents in which lasers have been aimed at airline cockpits, possibly jeopardizing air travel safety.

About a dozen pilots filed reports last week saying someone aimed green laser lights at their cockpits as they tried to land at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.

"The Federal Aviation Administration takes laser incidents very seriously because of the potential safety hazards they pose," Jim Peters, an FAA spokesman, said in a statement to ABC News New York affiliate WABC.

At Newark Liberty Airport, there have been 17 reported laser incidents involving planes landing from the north within the past week, WABC reported.

Some pilots have reported blurred vision and damage to the retina. The powerful laser beam can hit a target miles away and can also burn though thick plastic.

"If it punches through plastic this easily, think of what it can do to the retina of your eye," said David Todeschini with the Awesome Lasers website.

Laser Incidents on the Rise

As hand-held lasers have become more inexpensive, the number of incidents has increased in recent years.

In 2010, there have been more than 2,200 reports of laser incidents. Since 2005, more than 5,000 incidents have been reported The Associated Press reported.

Shining a laser at an airplane is a violation of federal law.

"Interfering with a flight crew is a federal crime, so the FBI has looked into these laser incidents over the last several years. ... We've located some and they've been prosecuted," said FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko.

In September, a Rhode Island man was accused of pointing a laser at a plane on final approach at T.F. Green Airport.

He was charged with "attempting to interfere with an aircraft with reckless disregard for safety; and interfering with an aircraft with reckless disregard for safety," the Providence Journal reported.

If convicted, the maximum sentence he could face is 20 years for each charge and a $250,000 fine, the Journal reported.

"These are very serious crimes and really prosecutors are going to have to make that point by putting people in prison any time this occurs," said John Nance, an aviation analyst for ABC News.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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