The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is asking for the public's help to find whoever's been pointing lasers at airplanes as they approach the city. NY1's Steve Kastenbaum filed the following report.
The last thing a pilot needs is a distraction during those critical moments right before landing a plane. But lately, it's been happening with an alarming frequency.
At 7:35 p.m. Tuesday, a Shuttle America pilot headed toward LaGuardia said a green laser lit up the cockpit when he was about six miles from the runway.
The FBI says the light seemed to come from near the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.
Then, about three hours later, the pilot of a private plane reported a similar incident, with the light shining from Broadway and Steinway Street in Queens.
The FBI says there has been a 17 percent increase in laser attacks since last year.
"There's always been a continuous issue with it, but lately we've seen it happen more and more," says Richard Frankel of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. "Two incidents very close together, both targeting pilots flying into LaGuardia, is concerning to us."
"When these things start increasing in numbers and prevalence and locations, the law of averages will dictate that they're going to increase the risk factors while we're flying those airplanes," says Sean Cassidy, Vice President and National Safety Coordinator of the Air Line Pilots Association International.
Fortunately, the pilots of both planes targeted on Tuesday were able to land safely.
But in August another pilot's retina was burned by a laser light pointed at the cockpit.
This is not something that passengers arriving in New York Thursday night wanted to hear.
"It's scary," said one. "I'm glad that I landed and that I'm safe on the ground. I'll be a little more scared coming in next time."
"I fly for business and pleasure," said another. "I'm not going to stop flying because some people are idiots."
The FBI is asking for the public's help in finding the people who are putting flights at risk in this area. Those with information are being asked to call 212-384-1000.