Washington, DC (CBS) - The FBI took aim Tuesday at a growing danger to aviation. It will now offer rewards for tips that help catch people who shine lasers into cockpits, which can blind pilots just as they're trying to land.
What has become a serious problem for pilots in the air has now landed in the hands of the FBI. People shining lasers into cockpits have become a chronic nuisance that law enforcement fears could lead to a major aviation disaster.
Commercial pilot Robert Hamilton says in the last nine years, he has been "lasered" five times -- one time with 67 passengers on board his Canadair plane.
"You can suffer from flash blindness, after imaging, retinal burning," Hamilton says. "The retinal burning that we experienced lasted for several hours afterward."
The FBI is targeting 12 major U.S. cities where a law enforcement source says there have been a high number of reported incidents. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.
Since 2005, the FBI and FAA have been tracking laser strikes. In that time, there has been a more than 1,000 percent increase in the number of incidents. Last year, almost 4,000 laser strikes against aircraft were reported -- that's almost 11 incidents a day.
"The solution is for people to stop doing this," Hamilton says. "It is not a prank, and secondly, if you see someone shining a laser at an aircraft, please report it."
If you get caught, it's a felony punishable by up to five years in jail. There haven’t been any fatalities tied to laser incidents, but the concern is there will be if they don't stop.
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