American aviation officials said yesterday they would start severely punishing people who fired lasers at aircraft after such dangerous incidents surged.
The FAA can treat laser flashing in the cockpit of the aircraft as "interference" to pilots and crew members, the FAA said, the operation is placed under the same laws and regulations that protect crew members and passengers from hijackers.
"Our priority is to protect the safety of the tourism public.
We will not hesitate to take drastic action against anyone who threatens the safety of our passengers, pilots and air transport systems, "Transport Minister Ray LaHood said in a statement.
According to the FAA, National pilots reported more than 2,800 laser incidents last year, almost twice as many as the previous year and nearly 10 times in 2005.
Randy Babbit, director of the FAA, said the laser "can temporarily blind the pilot and prevent the plane from landing safely, endangering the safety of passengers and people on the ground.
The FAA said: "violators can be fined up to $11,000 per incident.
In late 2009, a California man became the first person in the United States to be imprisoned for holding a laser aiming plane, and he was sentenced to laser targeting two Boeing planes when they landed near Los Angeles.
There is evidence that these events are largely pranks, but legislation in the US Congress to make laser devices targeted at aircraft a criminal offence is pending.
In Australia, Cyprus, France, Greece and New Zealand, planes are also targeted by lasers.