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FBI Warns Pointing Lasers at Aircraft Not a Prank, But A Federal Crime
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Video: Don't Let Prank Lead to Prison

Mississippi FBI agents call a prank that can blind aircraft pilots no joking matter and they're prosecuting people for the practice. MPB's Desare Frazier reports,  

"Lasing is a threat to aviation safety and it's a federal crime," said FBI video.

In this FBI video they explain the dangers of what's called lasing--aiming a laser pointer into the night sky at aircraft. Donald Alway is the Special Agent-in-Charge in Mississippi. He says it's so serious people found guilty of lasing face up to five years in prison and an $11,000 fine. 

"To break it down, the laser pointers that we use in business applications all the time, in presentations and people use them for instructional purposes, those can be used by anyone to point those in the direction of an aircraft and potentially blinding a pilot," said Alway.

Pilots complain they can't see the flight controls, putting everyone on the aircraft and on the ground in danger. Alway says the pinhead beam of light becomes several feet wide when pointed into the sky, which can cover the entire cockpit. Cases in the state have doubled. The Federal Aviation Administration reports 13 in 2014 and 28 last year. Alway wants parents and teachers to warn young people about the risks of lasing. He says it impacts everything from private and medical aircraft to commercial and military jets. 

"We've got a lot of military aircraft operating in Mississippi. We've got training facilities both at Columbus and Meridian, so we've got folks that are in a training capacity that are flying," said Alway.

Don Alway says a case is in the court system right now and several incidents are under investigation. Some cases are not reported but to date, he says lasing hasn't caused a crash.