Despite federal warnings, laser strikes against aircraft still happening

2,237 incidents reported in first three months of 2022

Despite continued warnings from federal authorities, recent data show people are still pointing lasers at aircraft. Numbers from the Federal Aviation Administration reveal in the first three months of 2022, 2,237 incidents were reported.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite continued warnings from federal authorities, recent data show people are still pointing lasers at aircraft. Numbers from the Federal Aviation Administration reveal in the first three months of 2022, 2,237 incidents were reported.

It may seem harmless to a practical joker, but pointing a laser at an aircraft, especially one flying at low altitude, is no laughing matter. News4JAX aviation expert Ed Booth said that even though there are no known permanent eye injuries involving a laser pointer, pointing one at a plane is still a federal offense.

“It’s a distraction,” Booth said. “It can blind a pilot temporarily.”

Booth said the FAA often compares it to being in a dark room and having a flashbulb go off in your face. Of the 2,273 complaints so far this year, more than 130 of those were in Florida. Nine were in Jacksonville.

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For all of 2021, the FAA reported 9,723 incidents -- 630 of those were in Florida, and 37 were at Jacksonville International Airport. Booth points out helicopter pilots can be especially vulnerable.

“Most helicopters are equipped with windows on the bottom, if you will, that allow them to make ground observations and expose them to the light from lasers pointed up at them,” Booth said. “This is completely different from the exposure of most airplanes.

Booth has one final warning: try pointing a laser at a law enforcement helicopter and see what happens.

“They’re going to find you and identify you,” Booth said. “And they have ground units they can communicate with instantly, they can go get you and it would be a very, very bad idea to point a laser at a sheriff’s office helicopter, they’re going to find you.”

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense. According to the FAA, it can cost you up to $250,000 in fines or up to 5 years behind bars. People are encouraged to report these laser strikes to the FAA.


About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.