A Southern California man who aimed a laser beam at two airliners as they approached an airport has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison for disrupting the flights.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles says Dana Christian Welch of Orange, who was sentenced Monday, was the first person in the U.S. to be convicted at trial of interfering with pilots by aiming lasers at their planes.

Authorities say the 37-year-old aimed a handheld laser at two Boeing jets as the passenger planes were about to land at John Wayne Airport on the night of May 21, 2008.

The laser beam struck one pilot in the eye, causing "flash blindness," and interfered with pilots' ability to land the other plane.