FBI warns about consequences of aircraft laser strikes - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

FBI warns about consequences of aircraft laser strikes

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The FBI is warning you that what you may consider a toy could land you behind bars. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense. It could land you up to five years in prison.

"We're really more interested in awareness than arrests," explained Donald Alway, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Jackson Field Office

Mississippi is no exception to the national spike in laser strikes.

"From 2014 we had 13 reported incidents to 2015, we had 28 incidents," noted Alway. "Over a 100 percent increase."

The FBI noted that a particular concern is the medical helicopters in the state. PHI Air Medical operates the University of Mississippi's Air Care flights. Christopher Roden says pilots on those flights are at high risk.

"Our aircraft operate relatively low to the ground, want to do thousand feet normally," said Roden, an area aviation manager. "So they're much more 'septable to getting a powerful strike being closer to the source."

And the laser isn't a high dollar item.

"The ones were talking about here that have the range to affect aircraft are very powerful and they're not that expensive," added Roden. "They're readily available on the Internet for $40-$50. And the range can be up to 10 miles. So even though they're small. They're very very powerful."

It's not just our cities with airports where the laser strikes are happening.

"This is a statewide issue for us," added Alway. "When we've looked and compiled data from the FAA, this is not single isolated incidents. This is not one pocket of our state. This is from Gulfport, to Oxford, to Southaven and everywhere in between."

Seven cases have already been reported in Mississippi this year. The FBI said it's actively pursuing cases. But would rather make awareness the priority so the number of laser strikes decrease.

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