A man who pleaded guilty to shining a laser pointer at a landing airplane, temporarily hampering the pilots' vision, was sentenced Friday to two years of probation.
The plane had six passengers and was about 3,000 feet (915 meters) above the ground when the laser beam hit the cockpit window on Dec. 29, 2004.
The flight crew said a green beam struck the window three times, causing both pilots to briefly lose night vision. The plane, flying from Boca Raton, Florida, to New Jersey's Teterboro Airport, landed safely.
David W. Banach, 39, of Parsippany, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in November to violating a section of the Patriot Act involving interfering with pilots of a passenger aircraft.
"At no time did we believe that Mr. Banach was involved in terrorism or that he should face a maximum penalty of 20 years in a federal prison," said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie. "Nonetheless, his conduct posed an immediate threat to innocent lives."
"Anyone considering such purposeful conduct can anticipate the full weight of federal prosecution and a potentially lengthy prison sentence," he said.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, more than 300 similar incidents have been reported since 2004. On Monday evening, 16 incidents were reported by pilots landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
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