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UPDATE: NY Assembly, Senate Pass Bill Outlawing Interference of an Aircraft with a Laser

The bill would make interfering with an aircraft with a laser a misdemeanor or a felony in more serious cases.

Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye). Photo credit: Contributed
Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye). Photo credit: Contributed
This story was updated at 4:38 p.m. on June 19, 2014 to include a new, corrected press release from Assemblyman Steve Otis' office.

A bill that would criminalize the pointing of a laser at an aircraft was passed by the New York State Assembly Monday, according to the bill's author Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye).

When a laser is pointed at a plane, the intense light can temporarily blind the pilot which can jeopardize the safety of all onboard. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Aviation Administration have both announced a crackdown on such offenses.

"Laser pointers are a growing danger to aircraft pilots," said Otis in a statement. "There has been a huge increase in laser pointer incidences over the past few years and something needs to be done to reverse this trend before a tragic situation results."

In the fall of 2013, CNN reported that the number of incidences of lasers pointed at aircrafts in New York had risen by 17 percent compared to the previous year.

The bill makes the offense a Class A Misdemeanor with the potential of up to one year in prison, or a Class E Felony in more serious instances with up to four years in prison. 

Next up, the bill moves to the state Senate, where Otis has worked with a bipartisan group of senators to help with its passage.


Below is Otis' press release about the bill:

New press release: Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Queens) and Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye) announced passage of their bill that would make it a crime to interfere with an aircraft by shining a laser at the airplane or in its flight path. The legislation, S7418-A/A 8236-C, would make 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. 

 

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 ground.

 

Otis stated, “Laser pointers are a growing danger to aircraft pilots. There has been a huge increase in laser pointer incidents over the past few years and something needs to be done to reverse this trend before a tragic situation results.  By making this act a state crime we will be strengthening the hand of law enforcement to prosecute this reckless behavior.”

 

Sanders stated, “I am proud to have sponsored this very important legislation.  JFK International Airport, the largest airport in New York State, is located in my district.  This legislation will ensure that the 7 million passengers who use 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.”

 

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.

 

“Although this action has been illegal under federal law since 2012, incidents involving smaller airports outside the New York City area are oftentimes ignored,” noted the lawmakers. “This new legislation protects all New York airports, by allowing local law enforcement to prosecute offenders who put the lives of passengers and pilots in danger.”

 

The bill passed the Assembly on June 17th and was approved by the Senate on June 19th, the last day of the Legislative Session.  The legislation now moves on to Governor Cuomo for his consideration.

 

The legislation was co-sponsored in the Senate by Senator Mark Grisanti (R-I, Erie County) and Senate Majority Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau). In the Assembly, the bill was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-North Brooklyn), Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside), John McDonald (D-Cohoes), Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) and Aravella Simotas (D-Queens).


Urging the Governor to act quickly to sign the bill into law, Senator Sanders and Assemblyman Otis stressed the paramount importance of aircraft safety: “The alarming increase in laser incidents involving in-flight aircraft seriously jeopardizes the traveling public’s safety and undermines their confidence in airline travel. We cannot wait for a tragedy to act.”


Original press release: Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye) announced Assembly passage Monday of his bill that would criminalize interfering with an aircraft by shining a laser at the aircraft or in its flight path. A 8236-C would make such an offense a class A misdemeanor (up to 1 year in prison) or a more serious class E felony (up to 4 years in prison) if the laser causes a significant change in course or other serious disruption of the aircraft that threatens the physical safety of the passengers or crew. 

 

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. Due to the fact that these laser incidences 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 ground.

 

Otis stated, “Laser pointers are a growing danger to aircraft pilots. There has been a huge increase in laser pointer incidences over the past few years and something needs to be done to reverse this trend before a tragic situation results.”

 

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 incidences with these devices. In 2005, there were 283 incidences nationally. By 2013, that number had grown to almost 4,000 incidences across the country.  In metropolitan New York City, area airports experienced 99 incidences in 2013, up from 71 the year before. In addition, from 2012 to 2014, Western New York experienced 33 incidences, including 5 so far in 2014.

 

“Although this action has been illegal under federal law since 2012, oftentimes incidents at smaller airports outside the New York City area are ignored,” noted Otis. “This new legislation protects all New York airports, by allowing local law enforcement to prosecute offenders who put the lives of passengers and pilots in danger.”

 

The bill now moves to the State Senate where Senator James Sanders (D-Queens) sponsors the with Senators Grisanti (R-I, Erie County) and Senate Majority Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R- Nassau).  Assemblyman Otis vowed to work closely with his Senate colleagues to enact the bill into law this year.

 

“Aircraft safety is of paramount importance. The alarming increase in laser incidents involving in-flight aircraft seriously jeopardizes that safety and undermines public confidence in airline travel. We cannot wait for a tragedy to act,” said Otis.

Sage on the Hudson June 19, 2014 at 11:20 AM
"'There has been a huge increase in laser pointer incidences over the past few years and something needs to be done to reverse this trend before a tragic situation results.' "In the fall of 2013, CNN reported that the number of incidences of lasers pointed at aircrafts in New York had risen by 17 percent compared to the previous year.." INCIDENTS, Alfred, not incidences. The two words don't mean the exact same thing. Take the time to learn the difference.
Bruce Cohen June 19, 2014 at 04:43 PM
Well now that we've gotten our IMPORTANT grammar lesson for the day, and Sage has wasted valuable bandwidth voicing his vast knowledge of the English language, let's deal with the problem at hand. Pointing a laser at an aircraft, auto, motorcycle or boat not only endangers the occupants and operator, but has the possibility of injuring numerous by-standers. I truly feel that a class A felony, with a minimum of five years and no plea bargains is a more justified penalty. And this should apply to 15 year olds and up. Dying in an airplane, car crash or any vehicle accident because some idiot decided it would be fun to point a laser at it is in no way justifiable, period.
REAGAN June 23, 2014 at 03:58 AM
bruce you are still as obnoxious as ever. Valuable bandwidth? This isn't 1993. Are you still on dial-up?

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