NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The FAA is warning about the dangers of someone pointing a laser at a plane.
That exact situation happened Tuesday night in Nashville as a plane was coming in from Charlotte, North Carolina.
A flight crew alerted air traffic control about a laser. An American Airlines plane was about 10 miles from BNA.
News4 spoke with travelers at the airport who learned about the situation.
"You're depending on that pilot to be able to have his knowledge and for somebody to point a laser and put everybody's life at jeopardy, it's scary,” Leah Gonzalez, a traveler said.
Mt. Juliet police arrested a man at the Quality Inn with the help of a witness.
Police said a tractor-trailer driving on I-40 first called in about the laser.
Then air traffic control called about that same laser targeting a plane. It had more than 100 passengers onboard.
The FAA explained the dangers.
"A pilot can either face a temporary blindness or an injury to their eye that could be permanent or it can be a distraction,” Michael O’Harra with the FAA said.
Across the country, laser incidents have been on the rise over the last couple of years. 6,852 were reported to the FAA in 2020.
In Nashville, 12 laser strikes were reported between January and March 6th of 2021. In all of 2020, there were 62.
"The first couple of months in 2021 is even higher than the same months last year. So, it's not the direction we want to see things go,” O’Harra said.
For travelers like Gonzalez, it’s the unknowns about lasers that scare her.
"You never know what might happen. You never know what that laser might be,” Gonzalez said.
The FAA also told News4 they’re not always able to catch the person pointing a laser at a plane. In this case, police did.
Remember, it is a federal crime. You could face a penalty of up to $11,000 per violation.
If you are the victim of a laser incident or witness one, you can report it to the FAA.