A JetBlue pilot suffered a minor eye injury when a laser pointer was shone into his plane at 5,000 feet on Sunday, according to the airline.
NBC New York reports that officials confirmed the green laser was shone through the windshield of JetBlue Flight 657, but the plane, which was traveling from Syracuse to JFK Airport, was able to land safely 10 minutes later.
The air traffic control transmissions recorded someone in the cockpit saying, “We were just beamed — approximately beamed — by Deer Park, New York.”
Once they landed, the co-pilot, who was commanding the plane when the incident happened, was sent to the hospital for an eye injury. J.P. Tristani, an aviation expert, notes that, while a laser may seem like a minor prank from a few hundred feet below an aircraft, it has the potential to cause devastating consequences. Tristani stated:
“That momentary distraction, because you’re so focused inside the cockpit, can cause you to miss a radio call, can cause you to miss a warning light, can cause you to have a temporary blindness.”
ABC News notes that pointing a laser at an aircraft (plane or helicopter) became a federal crime in 2011, and violators are subject to an $11,000 fine. Despite this, over 1,500 laser incidents have been recorded just this year. A man in Massachusetts was sentenced to three years in prison last year for shining a green laser at a Massachusetts State Police helicopter back in 2007.
According to Gothamist, San Francisco International Airports spokesman Mike McCarron spoke about the dangers of pointing lasers at aircraft, saying:
“What happens is that pinpoint spreads out as it gets up higher and farther away, and what may seem like a very faint light to you, in a cockpit, gets almost blinding.”
The FAA and FBI are investigating Sunday’s laser pointer incident.