New campaign warns about dangers of lasers pointed into cockpits

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The FBI, Federal Aviation Administration and local police departments are launching an effort to make sure the public knows that laser pointers can be blinding to pilots in the sky.

Lasers are a problem for pilots at regional airports like Deer Valley, as well as Sky Harbor International Airport, medical chopper pilots and the military.

The FAA says the number of laser strikes nationwide is up more than 1,000 percent over the last decade.

Phoenix ranks third in the country for the number of laser strikes on pilots with 125 last year alone.

The agencies are launching a multimedia campaign with billboards and public service announcements. The campaign aims to make sure people know the dangers of lasers in the sky and to encourage people who see a neighbor pointing a laser up in the air to call 911 and report that person.

Authorities are hoping this new campaign will cut down on the dangerous problem.

The FBI is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest.

One police pilot who is suffering long-term effects from being hit with a laser while in flight said the damage was done in four seconds.

"It felt like something like a bird or something actually flew into my eye," Officer Chris Potter said. "It felt like I got punched in my right eye to the point where I saw stars and was unable to see. It immediately started watering and it felt like no matter how much I blinked and how much it irrigated my eye, it felt like there was a piece of glass or something in there that was preventing me from seeing."

The suspect was not caught.