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Dangerous laser strikes increase in Boise: A pilot's first-hand account

Laser strikes on aircraft are growing even as the FAA enacts tougher penalties on those who are caught red handed.

When shining a laser pointer up into the sky it may look like the laser ends, but the concentrated dot we see eventually becomes a glowing light in a cockpit of an airplane.

Owner of Air-O-Drome Aviation, Darin Hunt, says he's seen the blinding effects it can have first hand.

"I was actually with a student flying, and all of a sudden, it was a green laser flash waving around from one location at a house,” Hunt recalled. “I tried to go over it and get the location, where it took place, but they shut it off before I got there."

While Hunt's laser strike happened a few years ago, he says lately more of his pilot friends have reported the same thing happening to them.

The Federal Aviation Administration also reports laser sightings from airplanes flying through the Boise Airport have increased dramatically.

In 2014, there were two incidents. In 2015, there were 23. And so far in 2016, the FAA says 14 laser strikes have been reported at the Boise Airport from January through July.

"It was disorienting at nighttime,” Hunt said. “Your night vision is developed, which took 30 minutes for those eyes to develop to nighttime, and immediately that's lost so it's harder to see."

While there’s no training that can prepare a pilot for this situation, Hunt says reporting laser strikes immediately can protect others.

"You would notify the ATC. (Get) the location, the type of laser, color of the laser, try to get a latitude/longitude coordinates, or otherwise where the location took place," he said.

Pointing a laser at an airplane or helicopter is a federal offense, that could land you up to five years in jail and cost you as much as $25,000 in fines.

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