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Police warn pointing laser devices at planes is a federal crime

Todd Woodard, spokesperson with the Spokane International Airport, said there have been five laser attacks in 2019. In 2018, there were 15. He said the main lesson is to never point a laser at an aircraft, as it’s a federal crime.

SPOKANE, Wash — Even though they’re small, laser devices can pose serious danger to aircraft.

A laser’s thin beams can blind pilots and reflect a glare over the windshield.

Todd Woodard, spokesperson with the Spokane International Airport, said there have been five laser attacks in 2019. In 2018, there were 15.

Deputy Mark Gregory with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said officers respond to about two laser attacks locally per year that involve helicopters.

The light from these lasers spreads across the windshield, making it nearly impossible for a pilot to navigate, he said.

He said these devices also can also cause issues even when they’re not shone in the air.

Gregory said before they were widely available to buy, they were often used as target assists with guns.

So when officers see them, they sometimes immediately think it’s a gun being pointed at them.

This can quickly escalate any situation, Gregory said.

He said the main lesson is to never point a laser at an aircraft, as it’s a federal crime.