Pilot Reports Laser Strike During LAX Approach

The plane was above Santa Monica when light from a laser lit up the cockpit

An airplane pilot reported being visually impaired as a result of a laser light during his approach to LAX Wednesday morning, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

The US Airways captain said he was flying westbound at about 9,000 feet above Santa Monica when the cockpit lit up from the light from a laser just after midnight, according to FAA spokesman Ian McGregor.

The Airbus A321, which was en route to Los Angeles from Phoenix, safely landed at LAX despite the laser interference. The FBI said it is investigating the incident.

In February, the FBI began offering a standing $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone who points a laser at an airplane.

The light beam from the handheld devices can travel more than a mile in the sky and illuminate cockpits at night. The sudden flash of light in the dark cockpit can temporarily blind pilots, causing them to become disoriented.

“Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law,” Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said in a statement announcing the new reward program. “It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions.”

Since the FBI and FAA began tracking laser incidents in 2005, there has been a more than 1,000 percent increase in the number of incidents, up to 3,960 reported in 2013, according to statistics provided by the agency.

The felony can be punished by up to five years in jail.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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