FBI investigates laser incidents at O'Hare

February 17, 2011 9:04:59 PM PST
The FBI may be one step closer to identifying who may be behind a recent series of incidents involving lasers being pointed at planes.

Pilots have been targeted with lasers at O'Hare Airport as they are trying to take off or land. In those critical moments, local pilots have been startled by a blinding green light from lasers on the ground.

Agents have interviewed several local adults as part of their ongoing investigation. But no one has been charged.

Charges under federal law have to show that there was intent to do harm to aircraft.

"It's very distracting and very disarming," said First Officer Dennis Tajer, Allied Pilots Association.

The O'Hare control tower warned Tajer, a local commercial pilot, about lasers in the area on a recent Chicago flight.

"It's a very serious concern. The debilitating effects of a pilot using his vision. Our passengers can surely understand how important it is for a pilot to be able to see clearly in landing and takeoffs," said Tajer.

FBI Special Agent Charles Miller is in charge of investigating laser incidents at O'Hare Airport.

"The last thing that a flight crew needs, the pilot and the copilot need, is a blinding light going off in their face while they're doing those critical stages of flight," said Miller.

Last year, O'Hare reported 98 laser incidents -- the second most in the country.

"It's just a disaster waiting to happen," State Representative Dave Winters.

Winters is sponsoring new state legislation to criminalize pointing a laser at a plane regardless of intent.

"Consider very carefully if you're using these, what damage you can do, even if you're messing around, you can really hurt somebody significantly," said Winters.

Pilots say the blindness caused by a laser can last for minutes, but in some cases eye damage such as blurred vision has lasted for weeks.