Carl Monday investigates: Pilots flying blind

What happens when lasers hit cockpit
Laser strike (Source: WOIO)
Laser strike (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - For pilots, laser strikes are more than a distraction.  They're dangerous.

In Cleveland, and around the nation, laser strikes are on the rise.  Over the last seven years, we've seen a gradual increase in reports from pilots, averaging around 3,700 incidents a year.

But last year, laser strike incidents nearly doubled to a record 7,700 strikes.

Chief Investigator Carl Monday teamed up with a group of Raycom Investigative reporters to get answers on just how big the problem has become.  Through an open records request they received dozens of documents, some containing actual descriptions from pilots, taking off and landing at major airports across the country.

Local cargo pilot Capt. Rusty Bliss explained to Monday that take-off and landing are the most critical times in the cockpit.

The airplane is at its maximum performance level, we're at the highest concentration level, below 10,000 feet," Bliss said.

Which explains why shining a laser light from below onto an aircraft could have lethal consequences.

"The flash blindness could lead to a snowball effect of you missing things in the cockpit or missing things outside the cockpit, if you're a passenger airline, you got several hundred passengers behind you, so those lives are at stake," Bliss said.

The FBI warns that pointing a laser at an aircraft is not just a prank, it could lead to serious prison time.

Carl Monday is getting answers.  See his full investigation Wednesday night at 11 p.m. on Cleveland 19 News.

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