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Laser Strikes on Aircraft Hit Record High in 2023, FAA Warns of Dangers

Record number of dangerous laser strikes put pilots and passengers at risk.

A Delta 737-900ER in Las Vegas (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

In a recent announcement, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed a concerning escalation in the number of laser strikes directed at aircraft, reaching an unprecedented peak in 2023. This poses a significant threat to the safety of both pilots and passengers.

According to the FAA, pilots reported an alarming 13,304 laser strikes in the past year, marking a worrisome 41% increase compared to the figures recorded in 2022.

“The FAA is committed to maintaining the safest air transportation system in the world. Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety hazard that puts everyone on the plane and on the ground at risk,” said FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker in a statement.

Factors Fueling the Rise in Laser Incidents

The rise in reported laser strikes can be attributed to several key factors. Firstly, the easy availability and affordability of laser devices contribute significantly, with these devices widely accessible in both physical stores and online platforms. The growing trend of gifting lasers also amplifies their distribution, adding to the potential for misuse.

Technological advancements play a role, with heightened power levels in lasers enabling them to reach higher altitudes and pose a more significant threat to aircraft. The increased visibility of green lasers, compared to red ones, further complicates the issue, making detection more likely and escalating potential risks, particularly in aviation settings.

A crucial factor in the rise of reported incidents is the heightened awareness among pilots. The FAA has launched extensive outreach programs to educate pilots about the dangers of laser strikes and encourage prompt reporting. This increased vigilance has resulted in a surge in reported incidents, highlighting the true scope of the problem.

The FAA’s Multi-Faceted Approach to Combating Laser Strikes

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.  Shining a laser at an aircraft is not just an irresponsible but a federal crime.

For each incident, offenders face penalties of up to $11,000, with repeat offenders risking even steeper fines reaching $30,800, the FAA emphasized. Additionally, they could face criminal charges from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

In addition to legal consequences, officials emphasize the importance of public awareness and education. They encourage pilots, crew members, air traffic controllers, and individuals to report any laser strikes they witness to the FAA or local law enforcement. The FAA also provides various accessible resources to educate the public about the dangers of laser strikes. Their engaging video showcases the potential consequences and a comprehensive fact sheet offers detailed information on the risks and legal repercussions.

Tolga Karadeniz


  • Tolga Karadeniz

    Tolga is a dedicated aviation enthusiast with years of experience in the industry. From an early age, his fascination with aviation went beyond a mere passion for travel, evolving into a deliberate exploration of the complex mechanics and engineering behind aircraft. As a writer, he aims to share insights , providing readers with a view into the complex inner workings of the aviation industry.

    View all posts

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