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Laser Pointers Continue To Put Pilots And Passengers At Risk

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Hazard in the sky. Eleven commercial airlines said they were hit with laser beams while flying over the East Coast.

WJZ's Tracy Leong explains how this put pilots and thousands of passengers at risk.

Laser pointers continue to be a growing concern for the aviation industry. And with these recent incidents, their main concern is educating the public.

Eleven pilots reported being hit with lasers beaming into their cockpits while they flew over New Jersey Wednesday night. Ten of them said it was a green light.

"A laser strike could debilitate the pilot, the flight crew," said Mike Deruggiero, Maryland State Police Aviation Command.

Safety Officer Deruggiero says these lasers could obstruct a pilot's vision, and the culprit is not always easy to catch.

"A new group of kids growing up getting their hands on lasers might be part of the problem, or it very well could be deliberate," Deruggiero said.

Whether accidental or malicious, shining a laser pointer at aircraft could be catastrophic.

"It could prevent me from working again, let alone landing the aircraft safely. So it could have permanent effects," Deruggiero said.

Fortunately, there were no accidents reported as a result of the laser strikes. But the sky-high scare is leaving travelers on edge.

"Childish. And I find it to be really, really mean and cruel to do--especially nowadays with everybody worried about terrorist attacks," one traveler said.

Directing a laser pointer at aircraft is a federal offense. You could face up to five years in prison and pay a $250,000 fine.

Since July 3, the FAA reports there have been more than 2,700 laser strikes nationwide.

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