You’ve probably seen those posters, plastered across middle schools everywhere, advertising fun things to do instead of doing drugs. You know, fly a kite; read a book; bake a cake! All of these things also stand in for things to do when bored, instead of shooting lasers at aircraft.
Except let’s throw in drugs. Most drugs are a much better uses of your time than interfering with aircraft.
“Lasing aircraft,” as the FBI calls it, is some serious shit. A 26-year-old Buttonwillow, California man has been sentenced to one year, nine months in prison for pointing lasers at a Sheriff’s helicopter.
From the Justice Department:
According to court documents, Scott used two different laser pointers to strike Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, over a six-month period. Scott explained his actions by stating that he was bored. The lasers emitted powerful green or purple beams. As a result, the pilots of Air-1 suffered flash blindness that lasted a few minutes, causing disorientation. The pilots were ultimately able to pinpoint the origin of the beams and, with the help of patrol deputies, identified Scott as a suspect. Both laser pointers in this case exceeded the legal power emission limit. One of the lasers was 17 times more powerful than what is legally permissible.
Ars Technica notes that Scott may have gotten off easy. The harshest sentence for a so-called “laser strike” happened earlier this year, when a man was give 14 years in prison for the offense.
Lasing aircraft has been a federal offense since 2012.
“Boredom is no excuse for pointing a laser at an aircraft. Scott’s sentence reinforces our message to the public: This activity is a violation of federal law and is a serious risk to public safety,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Sacramento FBI. “Scott may have been located and arrested, but stopping such reckless activity is the only way to ensure public safety. Everyone is encouraged to discuss the risks of this activity with their families. Please report anyone shining a laser at an aircraft to 911 immediately.”
And when she says report it, she really means it. In June, the FBI expanded a pilot program that rewards people – in actual money – for providing information on intentional laser pointing. The reward can be a high as $10,000.
It’s a much bigger problem than you probably even know. There were 3,960 reported laser strikes on aircraft reported last year alone. The FBI says that these laser strikes have been described as “a camera going off in a dark room.”
I think we can all agree that flashbanging the people operating giant, flying hunks of metal is an all around terrible idea.
Image via FBI, YouTube