By Lynne Hayes-Freeland

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Federal authorities are cracking down on pointing a laser at aircraft by stiffening the punishment.

A laser attack on aircraft is a federal offense and across the country, the number of incidents has increased to nearly 10 a night.

“Between September 2009 and the present, more than 75 aircraft laser incidents occurred within the Allegheny Flight Standards district office,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said.

Offenders can now face a fine and up to five years imprisonment.

The problem is the laser, which can be purchased for less than $50, can put a flight in danger.

Pilots report flash-blindness, blurry vision, eye irritation and headaches – any of which have the potential to affect safety.

“Many high-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots who are trying to fly safely to their destinations – oftentimes with hundreds of passengers aboard,” Hickton said.

The FAA has charged a Pitt student in an incident last year involving a laser pointer case with risking a catastrophe.

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