David Smith, 21, of St. James, is facing charges of...

David Smith, 21, of St. James, is facing charges of obstructing governmental administration after police said he pointed a green laser at an aircraft and a police helicopter that responded to investigate. (Dec. 9, 2011) Credit: SCPD

A St. James man who pointed a green laser at a small plane and a police helicopter that responded to investigate has been charged with obstructing governmental administration, Suffolk County police said Saturday.

David Smith, 21, could also face charges from the Port Authority Terrorism Task Force, police said.

Workers with the Federal Aviation Administration notified police about 9:55 p.m. Monday that a privately owned Pilatus 12/47 single-engine plane, flying at 3,000 feet about 5 miles northwest of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, had been targeted with a laser pointer from the ground.

Suffolk Police Helicopter 4, piloted by officers Frank Lombardi and David Williams, was also targeted by the green laser when they approached the same airspace, police said.

The pilot, cooperating with officers on the ground from the Fourth Precinct, pinpointed the source of the laser to a St. James address.

At 10:45 p.m., police arrested Smith at 28 King Arthurs Ct. The investigation continues.

In June, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and FAA officials announced that they would begin imposing civil penalties against people caught pointing a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft.

Lasers can temporarily blind pilots or interfere with their ability to safely handle cockpit duties, according to the FAA.

Under FAA regulations, pointing a laser at an aircraft from the ground could constitute interference with a crew member. The FAA has begun imposing fines of up to $11,000 in such cases. The agency's lawyers were pursuing nearly a dozen cases as of October.

Incidents of laser light being fixed on aircraft is on the rise. Nationwide, the number of incidents jumped to 2,836 in 2010 from 283 in 2005. This year, there were 2,795 reported incidents as of Oct. 20.

Last month, a green laser was aimed at six airliners as they landed at LaGuardia Airport in one weekend. All the planes landed safely.

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