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Man quizzed about laser incidents


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(CNN) -- Law enforcement officers were questioning a Parsippany, New Jersey, man who they say may have pointed a laser beam at an airborne police helicopter Friday night and a Cessna aircraft two nights before, said a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The officers spent much of Friday trying to determine the source of the laser beam reported by a Cessna pilot Wednesday night, spokesman Steve Coleman said. The flight was carrying about a dozen passengers.

As a Port Authority helicopter circled the New York area Friday, using information from the Cessna pilot, someone aimed a laser beam at the aircraft between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., Coleman said. He said the helicopter had Port Authority markings.

There were no injuries or other problems from either incident, he said.

The man was being questioned at his home by members of the FBI-New York Police Department Joint Terrorism Task Force and FBI agents. He has not been arrested, Coleman said.

Coleman said authorities were trying to determine whether the man might have been involved in similar incidents.

On Wednesday, a government official told CNN that six commercial airliners had had their cockpits illuminated by laser beams during approaches at airports in the previous four days. (Full story)

The incidents have happened "all over the place" and in "kind of odd places," the official said. The official would not provide specifics.

None of the flights was affected as a result of the laser beams, but authorities have launched investigations.

Last month, the federal government warned police agencies that terrorist groups had expressed interest in using laser beams to try to down flights.

In an incident Monday, authorities said, the cockpit of Continental Flight 509 -- a Boeing 737 jet -- was illuminated by a laser as it approached the Cleveland, Ohio, airport.

FBI spokesman Bob Hawk said the light was directed into the cockpit at night from a suburb about 15 miles from the airport.

The FBI is trying to determine whether it was a prank or something more sinister. The FBI said no harm was done.

On November 22, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent an intelligence bulletin to police agencies to alert them that terrorist groups had shown an interest in using laser beams to try to bring down flights.

"In certain circumstances, if laser weapons adversely affect the eyesight of both pilot and co-pilot during a non-instrument approach, there is a risk of airliner crash," the bulletin said.

It is against federal law to intentionally shine a laser beam at a commercial airline flight.

There have been several other incidents this year when laser beams were directed into plane cockpits, including one on September 22 in which a Delta Air Lines pilot reported damage to his retina from a laser beam during a landing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A report for the FAA in June 2004 examined the effect of laser beams on pilots.

Of 34 pilots who were exposed to lasers during simulated flights, 67 percent experienced adverse visual effects at even the lowest level of laser exposure.

Two high-exposure levels resulted in significantly greater performance difficulties, and nine aborted landings.

CNN's Mike Brooks and Maureen Madden contributed to this report.


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