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Aircraft laser strikes on planes soar 41%: Here's what the FAA is doing about it

February 6 2022
3 min read
Aircraft laser strikes on planes soar 41%: Here's what the FAA is doing about it
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Despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s public plea to “lose the laser” or face fines of up to $250,000 or five years in jail, people keep shining lasers at aircraft and causing serious safety threats.

In fact, people – we imagine them all being 12-year-olds, but it’s likely they’re not – are shining lasers at airplanes more than ever before.

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According to the FAA's most recent report, during 2021 pilots reported 9,723 incidents of lasers being pointed at their aircraft. That’s the highest number of laser strikes ever recorded in one year by the agency.

(Image courtesy of the FAA)
(Image courtesy of the FAA)

“Intentionally aiming lasers at aircraft poses a safety threat to pilots and violates federal law,” the FAA said in a statement, noting that “many high-powered lasers can incapacitate pilots flying aircraft that may be carrying hundreds of passengers.”

In 2021, the FAA logged 47 reports of laser-related injuries. That’s more than double the number of similar injuries reported in 2020, when the number of airplanes in the sky was significantly reduced due to the pandemic, but just slightly higher than the number of reported laser injuries in 2019.

(Image courtesy of the FAA)

“The FAA continues to educate the public about the hazards of laser strikes because they pose such a serious threat to the safety of the pilot, the passengers and everyone in the vicinity of the aircraft,” FAA administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

In addition to educating the public about the hazards of laser strikes, the FAA can fine people up to $11,000 per violation and up to $30,800 for multiple laser incidents. In 2021, the FAA issued $120,000 in fines for laser strikes, but laser scofflaws may also be subject to criminal penalties from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies which can make the fines for these offenses much greater and may add jail time.

Since 2010, when the FAA began keeping records of laser strikes, through the end of 2021, there have been a total of 67,558 laser incidents in the United States and its territories.

(Image courtesy of the FAA)

Over that period, FAA records show more laser strikes taking place on Fridays and Saturdays than on other days of the week, and California, Texas, Florida, Arizona and Illinois, respectively, as the top states for number of laser strikes reported.

(Image courtesy of the FAA)
Featured photo by (Image courtesy of the FAA)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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