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Laser Strikes on Aircraft Remain a Serious Threat

The FAA is continuing its awareness campaign and working with law enforcement to reduce laser strikes throughout the country. Pointing lasers at aircraft creates a serious safety risk to pilots and may damage their vision.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense. The FAA works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue civil and criminal penalties against people who purposely aim a laser at an aircraft. The agency may take enforcement action against people who violate Federal Aviation Regulations by shining lasers at aircraft, and can impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. The FAA can impose civil penalties up to $30,800 against people who commit multiple laser violations.

The substantial number of reported incidents clearly show that laser strikes on aircraft remain a serious threat to aviation safety.

Laser Incidents Per Year

Year       Number of Laser Incidents

2020       6,852

2019       6,136

2018       5,663

2017       6,754

2016       7,398

2015       7,346

2014       3,894

2013       3,960

2012       3,482

2011       3,591

2010       2,836

2009       1,527

2008       913

2007       590

2006       384

The increase in the number of reported laser strikes is due to a number of factors. This includes:

  • The availability of inexpensive laser devices
  • The abundance of lasers for sale in stores and online
  • The number of lasers being given as gifts
  • Stronger power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes
  • Green lasers, which are more visible to the human eye than red lasers
  • Greater awareness by pilots to report laser incidents, due in large part to the FAA’s extensive outreach program

The FAA’s guidance for agency investigators and attorneys stresses that laser violations should not be addressed through warning notices or counseling. The agency seeks moderately high civil penalties for inadvertent violations, but maximum penalties for deliberate violations. Violators who are pilots or mechanics face revocation of their FAA certificate in addition to the civil penalties.

In addition to the federal law, some cities and states also have laws against shining a laser at aircraft. Federal, state, and local prosecutors have sentenced laser violators to jail time, community service, probation and additional financial penalties for court costs and restitution.

The FAA strongly encourages people to report laser incidents, whether they are pilots, air traffic controllers or members of the public.