After a string of recent laser strikes at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the Cleveland Division of the FBI is working to track down the suspects who appeared to be targeting pilots as they landed.
The most recent laser incidents happened on the evening of Feb. 3 and the morning of Feb 4. Pilots reported laser beams entered their cockpits, sometimes disorienting them for a brief time during their landing approach to Hopkins Airport, the FBI said.
Investigators believe both came from an area south of Lorain and 105th Street.
In December, pilots reported nearly 25 laser strikes on a single day. Investigators treated those strikes as a single incident and believed the source originated in an area southwest of Clifton Avenue and West 117th Street.
FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson told newsnet5.com the laser beams could be coming from something as small as a hand-held laser pen.
“When you aim that towards an aircraft it actually gets wider and it can get up to 6 feet in diameter in a cockpit so it can cause a lot of issues for the pilots that are trying to land a plane,” Anderson said.
newsnet5.com’s Airtracker5 pilot Greg Bartle has experienced a laser in the cockpit before. He said the blinding effect is no laughing matter.
“It’s not funny, it's no joke, it can and probably will end in a catastrophic event someday and I just hope it doesn’t,” Bartle said. “I hope they put a stop to it before then.”
Anderson said intentionally targeting a pilot with a laser is a federal crime. Under 49 USC Section 46301 (a) (5) (A), the FAA may seek a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation for aiming a laser at an aircraft in violation of C.F.R. Section 91.11.
The FBI and local law enforcement partners are asking the public if they have any knowledge of the laser strike that occurred this past week and/or the 25 laser strikes that occurred in December 2015.
If anyone has information, please call the Cleveland Division of the FBI at 216-522-1400. Tips can remain anonymous and reward money is available for the successful identification and prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for these laser strikes.