The FBI is warning that aiming laser pointers at flying aircraft is a serious offense punishable by years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.
At a press conference Monday, St. Louis officials said that pilots typically report several laser strikes per day.
Doug Reinholz is a helicopter pilot with the St. Louis Police Department. He says the light from laser pointers can be blinding to pilots, particularly at night.
"It's equivalent to like a flash of a camera if you were in a pitch black car at night," Reinholz said.
Justin Stouder was arrested last year for pointing a laser at a police helicopter. He says he wasn't aware how dangerous the laser pointer could be.
"It's not a small prank," Stouder said. "I had no idea that it illuminated the whole cockpit and blinded everyone inside. So it was really a selfish mistake."
The FBI warns that, if caught, offenders can face up to 20 years in prison, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Curious about what the pilots see from the air when a laser pointer beam hits the cockpit glass, or, at least the simulated version? Check out this video co-produced by the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration: