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US: Sullenberger says drones, laser pointers are dangerous; need certain prosecution

Retired airline captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III discussed the dangers of drones and laser pointers on CBS’s program Face the Nation on August 2 2015. After first discussing missing Malaysian Air Flight 370, host John Dickerson asked Sullenberger about drones:

DICKERSON: So, the final question, Sully, I want to ask you about these reports about near misses from drones and commercial airlines. How dangerous is that?

SULLENBERGER: Well, because they are easy to get and they're relatively inexpensive, these devices are becoming ubiquitous. And that is true not just of drones, but of laser pointer attacks. And so it allows people to do stupid, reckless, dangerous things with abandon. I am heartened that the aviation and the legal authorities have raised the penalties for doing these things. Unfortunately, the essential element that is still missing is the certainty of prosecution, because it has been difficult to catch them in the act. This must stop.

DICKERSON: Very quickly, though, what could possibly happen, though, with one of these drones? I mean, how bad could it get?

SULLENBERGER: Well, we have seen what a six-pound or an eight-pound bird can do to bring down an airplane. Imagine what a device containing hard parts like batteries and motors can do that might weigh 25 or possibly up to 55 pounds to bring down an airplane -- it is not a matter of if it will happen. It is a matter of when it will happen.

Sullenberger successfully ditched U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson River in January 2009, after multiple bird strikes caused both engines to fail just after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. Since 2011 he has been a CBS news aviation and safety expert commentator.

From the Face the Nation transcript and the Wikipedia page for Sullenberger