🔒FAA seeing increase in laser strikes on aircraft

Last weekend alone, pilots reported more than 130 laser strikes across the country

Data from the FAA shows 22 of these laser incidents around Jacksonville International Airport this year and one around NAS Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s a new warning about shining lasers at airplanes — which could be incredibly dangerous for the pilot and everyone on board.

The Federal Aviation Administration says this was reported 130 times last weekend alone across the country.

Locally, data from the FAA shows 22 of these laser incidents around Jacksonville International Airport this year and one around Naval Air Station Jacksonville. The regional director for the FAA says a lot of these laser strikes in Jacksonville are occurring at low altitudes during the most critical moments of takeoff or landing. High-powered lasers can literally make it impossible for the pilots to control their aircraft.

FAA Regional Administrator Michael O’Harra says the frequency of this federal crime is on the rise.

“Nationwide, we’ve have seen the laser strikes continue to climb, with about 6,850 reported in 2020, and really, year to date, we’ve almost eclipsed last year’s rate already in early October,” O’Harra said.

Last year, according to deputies, video captured a Florida man pointing a bright green laser directly at a helicopter pilot in Orange County. From the ground, the light may not look incapacitating, but from the pilot’s perspective, laser lights can cause permanent eye damage as they illuminate in the cockpit, or at best, be a major distraction.

In newly released statistics, the state of Florida is third in the nation for the number of laser strikes pointed at aircraft. Only California and Texas have reported more incidents. Jacksonville’s military aircraft pilots are also reporting being blinded by the light. The Jacksonville data shows that over the last two years, 20 of the 42 incidents occurred below 3,000 feet — a critical phase of flight when pilots should be focused on their departure route or landing pattern at airports.

O’Harra says laser strikes can result in fines of up to $250,000, and up to five years in jail on a federal crime. The FAA is asking for the public’s help in reporting these incidents for the safety of innocent aircraft passengers and people on the ground.

“If you see something, we encourage you to say something,” O’Harra said.

O’Harra asks people to report an event of laser activity to laserreports@faa.gov and share their name, date and time and anything about the incident and the location.

Officials say they do not know the reason for this increase in this type of crime.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.