FAA to pursue stiffer penalties for laser pointing incidents

Aviation experts have said even brief flashes of light from lasers can distract pilots or temporarily blind them even at high altitudes.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the FAA would "pursue the toughest penalties against anyone caught putting the safety of the flying public at risk."

"Shining a laser at an airplane is not a laughing matter," LaHood said. "It’s dangerous for both pilots and passengers, and we will not tolerate it."

The FAA said Wednesday that it has pursued legal penalties against 28 people for pointing lasers at airplanes since June 2011. In that year, the agency said the number of laser pointing incidents that were reported by pilots increased from 2,836 in 2010 to 3,592.

The agency said the maximum penalty it could impose for laser pointing is an $11,000 fine, though it said it has fined one repeat offender $30,800.