DENVER (AP) – The number of people pointing lasers at airplanes at Denver International Airport nearly doubled in the last two years, following a troubling nationwide trend that federal officials say can jeopardize pilots’ eyesight and put passengers and planes at risk.

Federal Aviation Administration figures released this week showed people pointed lasers at airplanes around the Denver airport 38 times last year, up 20 percent from 32 reported in 2009 and nearly double the 22 reported in 2008. There were fewer than 10 incidents in each year from 2005 to 2007.

Lasers can temporarily blind pilots or even cause permanent eye damage, according to the FAA.

Officials said the number of laser incidents nationally nearly doubled from about 1,500 in 2009 to more than 2,800 in 2010. Los Angeles had the most incidents last year with 108. Eight other airports had more incidents than Denver.

Most of the laser incidents reported at the Denver airport happened outside the metro area, and one laser was believed to have originated in the Estes Park area of Larimer County, about 50 miles northwest, airport spokesman Jeff Green said Wednesday.

Green said the FAA normally contacts law enforcement officers in the area where a laser originated. Larimer County Sheriff’s Department spokesman John Schulz said he wasn’t aware of any reports from the FAA about a laser in the Estes Park area.

Aviation officials said that some pilots have had to relinquish control of their aircraft to another pilot because of eye problems related to lasers. Green said he knew of no such problems stemming from laser incidents in Denver.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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