The FAA is asking laser manufacturers and distributors to add a label warning of the safety risks and federal laws related to laser use to their product packaging. The agency suggested that the label read: “Pointing a laser at an aircraft threatens pilots, and it is a federal crime. U.S. law enforcement agencies and the Federal Aviation Administration may seek criminal and civil prosecution against violators. Don’t shine this laser at aircraft.”
“Lasers may seem like just a toy, office tool, or game for most, but they can incapacitate pilots putting thousands of passengers at risk every year,” said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen. “People need to be aware pointing a laser at an airplane is a federal crime.”
FAA fines for pointing a laser at an aircraft can run up to $11,000 for each violation and up to $30,800 for multiple incidents. The agency received 9,457 laser strike reports from pilots in 2022 and issued $120,000 in laser strike fines in 2021, a year that saw a record 9,723 laser strikes reported. 278 pilots have reported laser-related injuries to the FAA since 2010.
“The agency … issued $120,000 in laser strike fines in 2021, a year that saw a record 9,723 laser strikes reported.”
So out of 9,723 reports, only around 10 people (120,000/11,000) were actually charged. And they were probably only charged because they did it multiple times, so possibly fewer than 10 people, or less than a 10th of 1% of all violators.
Wrong. Most consumer lasers ARE toys.
When I was flying for an airline several years ago (I’m now retired) we were hit with a green laser. Not fun. Luckily we were not hit in the eyes, but it could have been very harmful.
Last year I was on short final in Cologne (B767 Captain) and got hit directly in the left eye. By the time I taxied to parking, I couldn’t not see well out of it and it felt like I had scratched my cornea. That ended my flying that evening and I had to make a trip to the hospital along with my FO.
I had macular damage from the A-hole that lasered us. These lasers are not joke and can do damage.
I do not think that will have any meaningful effect on the number of this type of incident. Of particular concern is the flood of cheap misrated imported lasers available online which have far more power than rated and can emit infrared as well, some of these reach the threshold of being instantly dangerous to vision. I’d guess that almost 100% of the people who shine these lasers at aircraft know it’s illegal and possibly dangerous depending on the laser.
Recently something called a street takeover has started to gain in popularity in and near large cities. Delinquents (I will not call these people car enthusiasts, they are idiots with cars) will block off an intersection with cars and do donuts and (poor) drifting in the middle of the crowd. In the past couple of years lasers have started showing up and now from what I’m seeing in the videos online there are dozens of lasers shining at the cars through the smoke at any given takeover. Some of them obviously more powerful than your typical <5mW laser. A video recently surfaced of several lasers being shined at a resident who was watching a takeover from an apartment balcony. These events don't attract a very intelligent crowd, but I'm still certain that most of them know that their lasers can easily cause permanent vision damage. They're the same people shining these things at aircraft.
As problematic as I find government bans of products, I think strict legislative controls over these lasers may be necessary because of how easy it is to instantly and permanently damage someone's vision. A sufficiently powerful (and scarily easy to find cheaply) laser is an instant aim weapon that can blind a person from afar in a fraction of a second. No sights, leading the target or skill of operation are necessary, just walk the beam onto the target. It's only a matter of time until some unfortunate pilot's career is ended in seconds, putting many people at risk, by some troglodyte with a laser.
I have been hit by a laser twice. Both incidents were in South Florida. Once was descending in over Venice FL heading towards PBI. The second time was last month. I was 5 miles north of the Stuart Florida airport, SUA descending on left downwind for an east landing. I reported both to ATC immediately. The government calling on manufactures to add a warning label to their lasers is the equivalent of a bad joke. How effective are the government warning labels on cigarettes? Bad peopler are just going to be bad. I do believe that these bad people have neighbors that are probably aware that this is happening.