Frame grab from a video produced by the U.S. Air...

Frame grab from a video produced by the U.S. Air Force and the FAA about the dangers of "laser strikes" where laser pointers are directed at aircraft cockpits. Credit: U.S. Air Force, FAA, 2012

Federal authorities launched an investigation Friday after four commercial airline pilots reported that high-powered green lasers were pointed at their planes as they flew over Long Island.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the pilots reported that laser beams "illuminated their aircraft" Thursday night while flying about 4 miles northwest of Farmingdale, near Bethpage State Park.

The incidents occurred at about 8,000 feet between 9:30 and 10 p.m. and involved American Airlines, Shuttle America and Delta planes originating from Kennedy Airport, the FAA said.

About 11:30 p.m., a Sun Country Airlines flight also reported being hit with a green laser, near Sandy Hook, New Jersey, 14 miles southwest of Kennedy, the agency said.

No injuries or emergency landings were reported, but officials stressed that laser beams shining into cockpits can blind pilots, putting crews and passengers at risk.

"Green lasers have been a repeated danger to pilots across our metropolitan area and across the country," Sen. Charles Schumer said Friday in Long Beach, reiterating his call for a federal ban on long-range lasers. "We have to do something soon and not after a plane crashes."

The New York Democrat said Nassau County police, the FBI and the area's Joint Terrorism Task Force have launched a joint probe. Nassau police confirmed that detectives were investigating; an FBI spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Investigators don't believe the person using the laser in the Long Island incidents was in Bethpage State Park at the time, a state official said. Further details were not released.

Pointing a laser at a plane is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The first Thursday night incidents prompted air traffic controllers to warn other pilots, according to air traffic control transmissions archived on the website

"Use caution, I've had two aircrafts struck by that laser, so they were aiming at the aircraft," Delta Flight 2634 was advised.

The pilot replied: "It's pointed at us, he's doing it again right now. . . . It's just off our left wing."

Minutes later, another Delta pilot reported a seeing a sudden glowing light on his left. "I'm not looking down at it, but it's lighting up the inside of the windshield here," he said.

The FAA couldn't immediately say whether the lasers pointed at the planes also hit the cockpits.

In the recordings, air traffic control warned crews that planes reported the laser "following the wings of the airplane. No direct cockpit hits, but they were chasing the plane."

According to the FAA, reported incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft nationwide have steadily increased in the past decade, from 384 in 2006 to 3,894 in 2014.

Through May 15 this year, 1,976 incidents have been reported, including 36 at LaGuardia Airport, 21 at Newark Liberty International and three at Kennedy.

"It is a very serious matter, and we all take matters of safety and security seriously," said Kent Powell, an American Airlines spokesman. "Fortunately, there were no injuries."

Delta said both flights landed safely and the airline is cooperating with authorities.

Michael Canders, an aviation professor at Farmingdale State College, said pointing a laser at a pilot could cause temporary blindness and lead a pilot to crash the plane.

"As the laser enters the cockpit there is a large flash of light," said Canders, a retired Air Force rescue pilot.

Canders said he favors prison and hefty fines as a deterrent.

"It's mind-boggling to me that someone would do this," he said.

With Gary Dymski, Chau Lam and Joe Ryan

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