The FAA says despite the tremendous risk lasers pointed at aircraft present, there’s been a record number of dangerous laser incidents in 2021, with overall laser incidents dramatically up from 2020 in the sky over the U.S.. The FAA reported 9,723 laser incidents in 2021, up from 6,852 reported in 2020; in the 10 years the FAA has logged such incidents, 2021 came in by far the highest.
In a statement, the FAA said, “Laser strikes on aircraft remain a serious threat to aviation safety. Intentionally aiming lasers at aircrafts poses a safety threat to pilots and violates federal law. Many high-powered lasers can incapacitate pilots flying aircraft that may be carrying hundreds of passengers.”
“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,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.
Since 2010, the FAA has logged 244 pilot injuries due to laser strikes.
Just weeks ago, a laser temporarily blinded a medical helicopter crew member. A Utah AirMed helicopter was transporting a patient to the University of Utah hospital when it was attacked by a laser. The crew member aboard the flight experienced temporary blindness and blurred vision from the laser. While the aircraft was able to land safely, the crew member was sent to the emergency room for observation. The Chief Flight Paramedic for Utah AirMed, Nathan Morreale, told reporters that the impacted crew member is back on the job but continues to experience lingering blindness in his peripheral vision.
People who shine lasers at aircraft face FAA fines of up to $11,000 per violation and up to $30,800 for multiple laser incidents. The FAA issued $120,000 in fines for laser strikes in 2021. Violators can also face criminal penalties from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
The FAA has created a mobile website for people to report laser strikes; it can be found here at https://www.faa.gov/mobile/?event=laser. “If you are the victim of a laser incident or you witness a laser incident, please report it to the FAA,” the FAA says. “Per FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 70-2A, Reporting of laser illumination of aircraft, all pilots and crewmembers are requested to immediately report incidents of unauthorized laser illumination by radio to the appropriate ATC controlling facility. Upon arrival at destination, all pilots and crew members affected by an unauthorized laser illumination are requested to complete the FAA Laser Beam Exposure Questionnaire in order to provide critical information in support of law enforcement efforts to identify and apprehend the responsible parties.”
You don’t need to be a pilot to report a laser incident to authorities. The FAA advises, “If you’re a member of the public who witnessed an individual aiming a laser at an aircraft, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .” Your email should include your name and contact information, date and time you witnessed the laser incident, and location/description of the incident. The FAA says that after such an email is received, FAA staff or the appropriate law enforcement agency could contact you if additional information or clarification is needed.