We just learned that airline pilots don't make enough money. Did you know they are also the victims of the most serious "made you look" crimes imaginable? You know what's more dangerous to commercial flight than Walter White snuffing out your girlfriend? Badger and Skinny Pete hiding in the bushes with a laser pointer...

In news I couldn't possibly make up, the FBI has put out a $10,000 bounty on people who flash laser pointers at aircraft. Apparently, the pointer can blind the pilot and create a serious safety hazard.

A few questions, in no particular order:

  • Doesn't it feel like the person with the technical dexterity to blind a pilot with RadioShack equipment deserves some kind of reward? Like a scholarship to MIT?
  • Wouldn't everybody take pilot safety more seriously if the government wasn't trying to convince us that playing Temple Run can bring down a 787 during take-off and landing?
  • Is it easier to catch and prosecute people with laser pointers than it is to make some kind of plane window that can't be flummoxed during a power point presentation?
  • What kind of person dimes out their buddy to the FBI for criminal use of a laser pointer?

There are all kinds of weird FAA regulations. And those regulations are sure to get more bizarre when the drones come. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that a conviction for pointing a laser at a plane could lead to five years in jail, but I wonder what would happen if one of these things actually did bring a plane down. Aside from the horrible loss of life and human suffering... who would be liable for that? Surely, "pilot error" is still in play if your captain gets blinded for a second and then crashes a plane into a mountain. But would the airline be able to argue that it wasn't their pilots' fault, but some punk kid on the ground with a laser pointer? And what then? Would the kid get thrown in jail forever as a domestic terrorist? I'm not sure the legal system is equipped to contemplate a world where laser pointers can make airplanes fall out of the sky.


Which leads me to think that they can't. Not really. Theoretically, sure, it's dangerous. But practically, there have got to be 1900 airplane redundancies that would help out a pilot who is being victimized by a red light. An airline pilot is not a cat.

This reward seems like a stunt by the FBI to make kids stop annoying behavior, as opposed to a serious effort to stop criminal activity. It's the kind of thing that should be in an after-school special, not on the FBI's wanted list.

Shopping And The Law [Above the Law]