Federal authorities have launched an investigation after numerous aircraft were hit by laser beams Wednesday night.
More than 20 aircraft were struck while in flight over at least 16 U.S. cities, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration. Authorities said three laser strikes were reported to the FAA in the New York City area, followed by three near Dallas that hit jets as they were preparing to land.
“None of the pilots reported injuries,” authorities said in a statement to The Post. “Nevertheless, shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime that the U.S. vigorously pursues. Lasers distract pilots from their safety duties and can lead to temporary blindness during critical phases of flight, such as takeoff and landing. In some cases in the past, pilots have reported eye injuries that required medical treatment.”
The FAA said that more than 5,300 laser strikes have been reported across the United States so far this year.
About 5 p.m. Wednesday, a TV news helicopter for WNBC-TV in New York was hit by a laser beam while in flight near the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the New York Police Department said in a statement. The pilot alerted the tower at LaGuardia Airport, which reported the incident to the NYPD Aviation Unit.
Authorities responded on the ground and arrested two men. One person was later charged with reckless endangerment, police said.
Around the same time, pilots for other TV news station choppers — WABC-TV and WCBS-TV — made similar reports, according to WCBS-TV. A pilot for WCBS-TV told the station he saw the beams while flying over the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn.
“When we were looking there, we got lasered,” the pilot, Joe Biermann, told the station. At the same time, he said, “the NYPD was right next to us, so they hovered above the place.”
In Dallas, three planes, including a Southwest Airlines plane and a private business jet, were hit by laser beams while preparing to land at Dallas Love Field, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The other laser strikes were reported in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, Ontario and Palm Springs, Calif.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Springfield, Ill.; Covington and Danville, Ky.; Detroit; Albuquerque; Jamestown, N.Y.; Salt Lake City; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Laser beams can travel more than a mile from the ground to the cockpit, momentarily blinding pilots in flight.
Capt. Joe DePete, first vice president from the Air Line Pilots Association, told The Washington Post over the summer that lasers are most dangerous when pilots are trying to take off or land.
“During critical phases of flight, particularly in hours of darkness when the eye is more sensitive to light sources,” he said, “a laser strike in the cockpit can create a ‘startle response’ which negatively impacts pilot health and flight safety.”
This story has been updated.