FBI probes laser hit
on Frontier Flight 769


The FBI is looking into a reported laser strike on a commercial Airbus A319, presumably fired from the ground, which happened roughly six miles northeast of Grand Junction Regional Airport last week.

Ian Gregor, Pacific regional spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration, said the crew of Frontier Airlines Flight 769 reported being struck by a green-colored laser — illuminating the entire cockpit — around 7:30 p.m. on March 29 as the airliner was flying over the Palisade area. Passenger and crew numbers weren’t immediately confirmed.

Gregor said the pilots were uninjured.

FAA contacted the Palisade Police Department, while a department report said officers were “on the lookout” for laser-type happenings.

“When it hits the glass (in the cockpit), it explodes that light all over the cockpit, which is incredibly distracting especially when you’re about to land or take off,” Gregor said. “We’ve had a number of cases when pilots suffered temporary blindness.

“The fact (pilots) noticed it and reported it means they were distracted,” Gregor added.

Willfully spotting an airplane with a laser is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, he said. Identifying a specific ground location where a strike originated is difficult because pilots are focused on final approach or take off, Denver FBI spokesman Dave Joly said.

“It’s not easy to investigate this sort of action unless there’s a witness statement or confession when it occurs,” Joly said.

The incidents are relatively common around Denver International Airport but rare in western Colorado, he said.

Joly said an investigation into the March 29 incident is active and declined further comment.

According to the FAA, the incidents have become more common over recent years with the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet and increased power levels that enable lasers to reach aircraft at higher altitudes. Through March 21, 18 incidents were reported in Colorado and 845 nationally, according to FAA data.

In 2012, there were 47 incidents reported in Colorado and 3,482 nationally.



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