By Janis Reid Whidbey News-Times
Information about the person responsible for pointing a laser at a Whidbey Island Naval Air Station aircraft could yield a $10,000 reward from the FBI and federal prosecution of the perpetrator.
The reward for this type of “lasing” is being offered for information leading to the arrest of anyone who points lasers at aircraft statewide.
The Seattle Division of the FBI is partnering with the Port of Seattle Police Department to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft, but the program extends to the entire state of Washington, according FBI spokesperson Ayn Deitrich.
There is a 90-day clock for the reward to be claimed.
A laser-pointing incident at NAS Whidbey was reported late last month to the Island County Sheriff’s Department.
At 4:32 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, an aircraft stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station reported “a laser being flashed at them” as they were flying over the Ault Field Road and Langley Boulevard area.
Sheriff Mark Brown said lasing incidents don’t happen often but are taken very seriously.
“I consider it a very serious crime,” Brown said. “Public safety is completely threatened when that happens. Anybody who directs a laser at an aircraft for any reason can expect to be prosecuted both federally and by the state.”
It is also illegal to point lasers at law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel, Brown said.
Lasing can be caused by something as small as a cheap laser pointer or as advanced a weapon’s scoping mechanism, which is why aviators take it so seriously, according to Mike Welding, public affairs officer for NAS Whidbey. Laser-pointing at an aircraft also can negatively distract a flight crew.
“We just want to make sure people know that when they do this, they are breaking the law,” Welding said. “It presents a danger to aviators.”
This year, the FBI has received reports of 32 incidents of lasing experienced by aircraft in Washington, with 19 of those near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, according to an FBI news release.
As part of the national campaign to educate the public, the FBI is partnering with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Air Line Pilots Association International, law enforcement at all levels nationally and internationally, and school resource officers.
“I can’t stress enough how dangerous and irresponsible it is to point a laser at an aircraft,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a prepared news release. “We know that targeted enforcement has succeeded in driving down laser incidents in a number of cities, and we’ll continue to partner with law enforcement to address this problem nationwide.”
Whidbey News-Times reporter Janis Reid: firstname.lastname@example.org; 360-675-6611.