Laser pointing near airports a growing problem

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Warwick man who allegedly pointed a high-powered laser beam at a plane landing at T.F. Green Airport now faces federal charges.

Joseph Aquino has been indicted on charges that he interfered with the safe operation of an aircraft and endangering its passengers and crew.

Meantime, officials say this is an increasingly common occurrence. In 2008 there were 1,000 cases of people beaming high powered lasers at aircraft, momentarily blinding the pilots. So far this year there have been 1,700 cases: a 70 percent increase.

Captain Thomas Walsh of the Airline Pilots Association says the result of such behavior can be catastrophic.

"There's perhaps a misperception that the laser beam just comes through the cockpit and may just happen to hit the eye," says Walsh. "That's not what happens. When the laser hits the cockpit windshield it defracts - or refracts - and it causes a flash throughout the entire cockpit that causes temporary blindness or blindness that can last for some time."

U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha urged anyone who sees someone beaming a laser at an aircraft to report it to police.