(New York, NY) Governor Cuomo has signed a bill introduced by Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village) into law that makes it a crime to interfere with an aircraft by shining a laser at the airplane or in its flight path. The law makes such an offense a class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to 1 year in prison) or a more serious class E felony (carrying a prison term of up to 4 years) if the laser causes a significant change in course or other serious disruption of the aircraft, threatening the physical safety of the passengers or crew. This new law protects all New York airports by allowing local law enforcement to prosecute offenders who put the lives of passengers, pilots and residents who live near airports in danger.
When pointed at an aircraft, the intense and focused light of a laser, akin to a camera flash in a dark room, can temporarily blind a pilot or impair his or her night vision. Given that these laser incidents originate from a person on the ground, pilots usually experience these dangerous situations during critical and difficult operations such as takeoffs or landings. This endangers the lives of pilots, passengers, and people on the Since the FBI and the FAA began tracking laser strikes in 2005, there has been more than a 1,100% increase in the number of incidents with these devices. In 2005, there were 283 incidents nationally. By 2013, that number had grown to almost 4,000 across the country. In metropolitan New York City, area airports experienced 99 incidents in 2013, up from 71 the year before. In addition, from 2012 to 2014, Western New York experienced 33 incidents, including 5 so far in 2014.
Senator Sanders reacted to the Governor’s signing of the bill by stating, “I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this very important bill into law. JFK International Airport, the largest airport in New York State, is located in my district. This law will ensure that the 7 million passengers who use the JFK each year, my constituents who live in the communities surrounding JFK, as well as all other New Yorkers who fly or live near an airport, will be safe from the danger caused by lasers pointed at in-flight aircraft. I believe this law will avoid future aviation disasters and save countless lives”