Crack-down demanded to protect passengers from lasers

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HARTFORD - Reports of lasers pointed at planes is on the rise, a danger in the sky that could have catastrophic consequences if a pilot is disoriented.

We are experiencing it here in Connecticut.

Hartford Hospital confirmed Life Star was hit last week and is averaging one or two a month.

Pilot Lindsey Rutka owns a six-passenger plane housed at Brainard Airport and has been flying since he was 16.

"If you have a laser that hits you in the eye you may momentarily not be able to see the screen,” said Rutka.

The FAA says there have been more than 5,300 laser strikes in the U.S. this year.

"One of the greatest threats to air safety today consists of small devices like this one,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Blumenthal reports 20 laser hits were reported at Bradley International Airport in the past nine months, 29 all around Connecticut.

LaGuardia and Newark airports have also reported problems.

Even two TV news chopper pilots in New York City saw beams while flying over Brooklyn.

At Brainard Airport in Hartford, Blumenthal called for a crackdown on individuals who aim lasers at aircrafts.

He sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Food and Drug Administration, urging a combined effort to pursue and prosecute individuals.

He also wants to ban the most powerful green lasers, unless a person is professionally licensed.

"The tendency has been to regard these instances as pranks, harmless games,” said Blumenthal.  "They are serious and the pilots regard them as serious."

Despite the thousands of reports since 2005, only 162 people have been arrested for the crime, with only 87 convictions.

Legislation in 2012 made it a federal crime that can lead to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but Blumenthal says that law needs stronger enforcement.

Currently there is a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those who shine these laser beams at aircrafts.