The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating Christmas laser light displays after a beam from one of the machines used in a display entered the cockpit of a plane flying over Dallas.
Last week, an American Airlines pilot reported the laser about 22 miles away from Dallas Fort Worth airport, according to an FAA spokesperson: The Boeing 737 was at an altitude of 13, 000 feet when a green laser entered the cockpit, temporarily blinding and disorienting the pilot.
In Dallas, a police helicopter traced the laser back to a holiday light machine at a home in Garland, a suburb of Dallas, where one of the beams from the display was shooting into the sky. Police said that there are a number of these types of displays in the area.
In November, holiday light displays in California and Michigan were blamed for lasers shining into plane cockpits.
The laser light holiday trend has taken off this year, selling out in stores across the country. Laser displays are advertised as an easy, 21st century alternative to stringing Christmas lights.
Laser Christmas Lights, a company specializing in holiday home displays, notes in its FAQ section that "the laser beams from our projectors diminish and become non existent after 850 feet. Typically, if our lasers are used responsibly and per our instructions, and not within one mile of an airport, you should be in compliance [with FAA regulations]."
The displays are not against regulations — but where the lasers in them point can be.
"Our concerns about lasers — regardless of the source — is that they not be aimed at aircraft where the beams can threaten the safety of a flight, " Lynn Lunsford, spokesperson for the FAA, told Mashable. "Consumers who buy these new light displays should take precautions to make sure that the lights are hitting their houses and not shining off into the sky."
"In situations such as this, we would start by asking the person to either adjust them or turn them off, " Lunsford said. But knowingly pointing a laser into an aircraft is a federal offense. Laser-pointers who are not compliant could be sentenced to 20 years in prison or a $250, 000 fine.