Pointing Lasers at Planes: A Big Texas Pastime

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The FAA has issued its annual report on the growing problem of airplane pilots being targeted by laser pointers as they try to land, and be proud, Texas: You had more such incidents than any state but California.

It happened 239 times in Texas in 2010, FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford tells Hair Balls, second to California's whopping 620 incidents.

And Houston, you're playing your part!!

The national report by the FAA does not include either Hobby or Bush as one of the top 20 airports for laser-pointing, but Lunsford says that's a mistake.

Both had 27 laser-pointing incidents last year, he says, which should have had them tied for 20th on the national rankings.

San Antonio and Austin each had 26 incidents, he said, while DFW had 21 and Dallas's Love Field had a measly eight.

Pilots have reported getting hit by the distracting lasers from as high as 4,000 feet to just as they're touching down, Lunsford says.

"It's gotten to the point where you can buy an almost-commercial-level laser on the Internet for about $200," he says. "These are not the lasers that kids annoy you with at the movie theater."

They can be used for sighting hunting rifles, and also, apparently, they can be used by the teenaged sons of hunters to have loads of fun.

The number of such reports has been increasing nationally, Lunsford said, from 300 or so in 2005 to 2,800 in 2010. The FAA has been encouraging pilots to report all such incidents, which along with the availability of lasers has caused the jump.

It is against federal law to point a laser in a pilot's eyes, of course; a California man recently got 18 months in prison for doing so, Lunsford says.

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