A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
To find incident reports
Most of the news items here at LaserPointerSafety.com were found by searching Google News for terms such as "laser pointer airplane" or "laser helicopter".
For more systematic research, check out official government records of aircraft incidents. Searching for the term "laser" can find almost all records, since the term is normally not used in aviation except in conjunction with laser pointer type incidents.
Use the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System, CADORS. Fill in the Word/Text Search form as shown in the example below. For "Field to search" select "Narrative"; for search text, use "laser".
In late October 2009, a search for "laser" returned 83 incidents from January 1 2009 to October 19 2009.
LaserPointerSafety.com has more-or-less weekly updates, so the most current information we have is always here.
FAA Systems Operation Security
In the U.S., FAA Systems Operation Security has a database of reports. This may not be available to the general public. If you are a researcher, reporter or other person with a legitimate interest, contact FAA SOS to see if you can gain access. The contact information is on the "To report an incident" page.
In January 2011, FAA issued a press release based on this database, showing that in 2010 there were 2,836 reported “laser events” in the U.S., compared to 1,527 in 2009.
NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS)
Outside of FAA SOS, NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System is the best source for U.S. incidents. ASRS is "the world's largest repository of voluntary, confidential safety information provided by aviation's frontline personnel, including pilots, controllers, mechanics, flight attendants, and dispatchers." The system is run by NASA, independent of the FAA, so that pilots can report anonymously, without fear of being grounded for reporting adverse incidents.
The ASRS Database Online search form has many search fields as shown below. A quick search using only the Text field, and the word "laser", found 78 ACN reports. It is likely that this number is low in terms of "all-time" laser incidents. (ASRS incident reports go back to at least the mid-1990s, so there should be many more than 78 all-tme reports.)
To do a more comprehensive search, check out the ASRS home page. It has more information about searching tips and techniques.
2010 FAA study
A December 2010 FAA study analyzed 2,492 incidents that took place from 2004 to 2008, inclusive. The study has a good summary of these incidents by altitude, laser color, pilot effect and other parameters.
Non-aviation incidents and accidents
Rockwell Laser Industries maintains an online database of laser incidents and accidents. This is a good resource to give an overview of a variety of types of incidents and accidents. While the database is not complete, it is the most comprehensive listing in one place.
When searching for incident reports, pay attention to the details of the various reports. For example, the category “Diode (pointers)” includes incidents where injuries were self-inflicted (deliberate staring) along with accidents where one person accidentally lases another person. These two are obviously different from a public safety standpoint. To give another example, incidents in the “Entertainment” category consists mostly of incidents involving laser show technicians, with relatively few reports of audience member injuries.