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THE NATION

FBI Probes More Cases of Lasers, Airplanes

January 12, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The FBI said Tuesday it was investigating several more reports of lasers being beamed into aircraft cockpits following a rash of similar incidents at the end of 2004.

The most recent sightings of lasers, which can temporarily blind pilots, come as Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta planned to brief reporters today about the issue at the Federal Aviation Administration's aeronautical research center in Oklahoma City.

Mineta is expected to announce new measures for alerting pilots and preparing them to react when lasers are shined at their aircraft.

He is also expected to outline ways to notify law enforcement more quickly.

Cathy Viray, spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, said the bureau was looking into a report that a green light, perhaps from a laser, was beamed onto the nose of an aircraft last week as it was taking off from the Burbank airport.

"It's happening all over the place," Viray said Tuesday.

Beginning on Christmas night, there were reports from all over the country of lasers pointed into aircraft cockpits: in Cleveland, Houston, Nashville, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Medford, Ore. Many of the reports described a green beam.

A New Jersey man was charged last week under the Patriot Act with aiming a green laser at a small jet flying over his home near Teterboro Airport.

The man, David Banach of Parsippany, said he had been using the device to point at the stars from his back yard.

At least four more incidents have been reported in recent weeks, according to the FBI.

Last weekend, two pilots near Dulles International Airport outside Washington reported lasers beamed at them, said FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman.

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