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FAA continues to see rise in laser strikes on aircraft

FAA has received 7,186 laser strike reports for 2021

Despite warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration about high-powered lasers being shined from the ground at aircraft above, new reports reveal another dramatic spike in the incidents that can incapacitate both airplane and helicopter pilots.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration about high-powered lasers being shined from the ground at aircraft above, new reports reveal another dramatic spike in the incidents that can incapacitate both airplane and helicopter pilots.

The FAA issued another warning to the public on Monday.

Three weeks after the FAA’s first warning about dangerous laser strikes on American airliners, hundreds of additional pilots have come forward reporting the federal crimes.

On Oct. 8, the FAA reported 6,723 laser strikes so far this year in the United States. That number has now jumped to 7,186 laser strikes, according to new statistics released by the FAA.

“When a laser comes into the cockpit, it can brightly illuminate. It takes the pilot’s focus off the instruments, presenting hazards to the passengers on the board and on the ground,” said FAA Regional Administrator Michael O’Harra.

O’Harra is concerned about the growing trend, reminding the public that people who shine lasers at aircraft face FAA fines of up to $11,0000 per violation and up to $30,800 for multiple laser incidents.

Using new data visualization software, the FAA reports that over the past 10 years, there’s been a 148% increase in laser strikes in the U.S., pointing to a gradual build in laser activity throughout the week until peak activity occurs on Friday and Saturday.

O’Harra said that both commercial and military pilots are being targeted in the Jacksonville area.

“When I looked at the Jacksonville data over the last two years, 20 of the 42 incidents occurred below 3,000 feet, so that’s obviously a critical phase of flight when the pilot should be focused on their departure route or landing pattern at the airports,” O’Harra said.

According to FAA officials, Florida has the third-highest number of laser events behind the states of California and Texas, adding that historically, the months of November and December are the busiest months.

“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,” O’Harra said.

Officials with the FAA still don’t know why laser strikes are on the increase, however, it’s noted that it’s easier than ever to get your hands on high-powered outdoor laser lights.


About the Author:

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