EL PASO, Texas – A man accused of shining a laser at commercial planes flying over his home was arrested after U.S. agents saw the beam, the FBI said Wednesday.
Clinton Udet Pinckert, 47, is accused of attempting to disable a commercial aircraft, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
FBI agent Andrea Simmons there were complaints this month involving at least four commercial aircraft that had lasers shined on them. One plane was landing in nearby El Paso. The other three were flying at more than 34,000 feet (10,363 meters), Simmons said.
"The laser was being shined at the aircraft in the cockpit," said Simmons, who said pilots or crew members could momentarily be blinded. "It's such a powerful laser that it's a great concern."
The device, which has been confiscated, is about the size of a flashlight, approximately 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) long. It is available to the public, according to Simmons.
She had no specifics on which airlines were targeted.
The Federal Aviation Administration helped the FBI in narrowing down the site where the beam originated. Agents who had been dispatched to the area saw the laser and could pinpoint the location.