In a list of unintended consequences, the proliferation of the inexpensive laser pointer ranks right near the top. Flourishing in the 1990s as a way to highlight information in a business presentation -- and often as a diversion for a playful kitty -- the laser pointer has become a public nuisance. Its use has morphed into some kind of dangerous game, as users now point them at aircraft, blinding pilots and forcing flights to re-route. The penalty for this felony: a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 USD fine.
By the time laser light reaches a cockpit at 1,000 feet (305 meters), it’s no longer a pinpoint. The light explodes when it hits the windshield, resembling a floodlight and showering the cockpit with blinding light that can disorient pilots. In 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration reported 3,894 laser incidents in the United States. According to the FBI, “pointing a laser at an aircraft is not a harmless prank. We take this seriously.”
A fine line between light and dark: