At least seven laser beams that have entered the cockpits of commercial airliners in the last week has authorities worried, the Associated Press reprots. Though there have been no reports of accidents caused by lasers, they can temporarily blind and disorient a pilot and could lead to a crash. The FBI is investigating whether the incidents are pranks, accidents, or something more sinister. There have been two incidents in Colorado Springs, Colo., and one each in Cleveland, Washington, Houston, Teterboro, N.J., and Medford, Ore.
Scientists discount the possibility that pilots are the victims of a popular new Christmas toy or jokesters with a $19 laser pointer from an electronics store. Loren Thompson, who teaches military technology at Georgetown University, said equipment that could what the FBI is investigating would be “fairly expensive and fairly sophisticated.” A reasonably powerful visible light laser that can lock onto a fast-moving aircraft is “not the sort of thing you pick up at a military surplus store,” he said. A memo to law enforcement agencies recently by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department says there is evidence terrorists have explored using lasers as weapons. Rob Sproc, vice president of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance, says pilots should have heard about the recent incidents from the government, not from the news media.