The Federal Aviation Administration wants to throw the book at people who intentionally point laser lights at aircraft.
The FAA said Wednesday the number of laser incidents nationwide rose from 2,836 in 2010 to 3,592 in 2011. Many of those were reported at Sea-Tac Airport. Pilots complain that when a laser is shined in their face, it can make them temporarily blind or force them to take evasive measures to avoid the light.
"Shining a laser at an airplane is not a laughing matter. It's dangerous for both pilots and passengers, and we will not tolerate it," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
FAA investigators and attorneys are now being told that warning notices and counseling are not strong enough punishments. Twenty-eight people have been charged for such incidents since June 2011 and the FAA is now directing its attorneys to push for the stiffest penalties possible. Dozens of other investigations are already under way.
The maximum penalty for one laser strike is $11,000. The FAA has proposed civil penalties against individuals for multiple laser incidents, with $30,800 the highest penalty proposed to date.
The mandate calls for moderately high civil penalties for inadvertent violations, but maximum penalties for deliberate violations. Violators who are pilots or mechanics could lose their FAA certification.
Information compiled by KING 5's Travis Pittman