5 Pilots Report Encounters With Lasers in NYC Area

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) -

Local and federal law enforcement officials launched an investigation Friday after five commercial airline pilots reported that green lasers were pointed at their planes as they flew over New York and New Jersey.

The Federal Aviation Administration said four pilots reported a green laser illuminating their aircraft in flight at about 8,000 feet over Long Island between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday. The pilots were flying American Airlines, Shuttle America and Delta planes.

Another report involved a green laser beamed at a Sun Country Airlines plane at 11:30 p.m., about 14 miles southwest of Kennedy Airport, the FAA said. All the flights landed safely.

Sen. Charles Schumer said that investigators believe one person was responsible for the incidents over Long Island and that the person may have been in a park. It is a federal crime to point a laser at a plane, and Schumer said perpetrators sometimes station themselves in parks to avoid detection.

Green lasers appear “almost like a flashbulb” in the cockpit, said Michael Canders, a retired military pilot and aviation professor at Farmingdale State College, on Long Island.

“It blinds the pilot, which can obviously interfere with control of the aircraft,” he said.

Meanwhile, the FAA also was investigating a commercial flight’s close encounter with a drone near LaGuardia Airport. A Shuttle America flight was on its final approach to the airport around 11 a.m. Friday when it climbed 200 feet to avoid the drone, which was flying near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, at an altitude of about 2,700 feet.