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Laser/aircraft incident statistics
Below is a quick summary of laser/aircraft incident statistics for various countries.
Keep in mind that the reporting rate is unknown, and may vary over time. For example, as of 2017 there have been anecdotal reports that some pilots have stopped reporting every laser incident they encounter, and are now filing only after more serious or worrisome incidents. This would show up as a decline in recent years of reported incidents, even if the number of actual incidents was constant or increasing.
Additional statistics are in various articles on the “News/Statistics, laws, other” webpage, which have been indexed in the Statistics category.
United States - Incident numbers
During 2017, there were 6,753 laser illumination incidents reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This compares with 7,442 reports in 2016, and 7,703 reports in 2015. This is a 9% drop compared with 2016, and a 12% drop compared with 2015.
Here is the same data, plotted to show the average number of illuminations per day, during each year:
Most of the 2017 incidents involved green lasers. The proportions are about the same as in 2016, with a slight rise in blue lasers (3.7% in 2017 compared with 2.9% in 2016) and a drop in “unknown” (0.7% in 2017 compared with 2.0% in 2016).
There were about 33 reports where the laser was known or suspected to come from “Christmas” or “holiday” lights. This represents 0.5% of all 2017 laser reports. Despite the proliferation of holiday laser lights, the proportion of “red and green” laser sightings was the same in 2017 as in 2016: 0.6%.
The chart below shows the number of laser illuminations for every single day from 2007 through 2017. The light blue line shows each day’s illumination reports. This number can vary widely from one day to the next. The dark blue line is a 60-day moving average; this helps smooth out the data in order to show longer-term trends. Click on the chart to see a larger version.
Here is the same data, except that each year is superimposed in a different color. This makes it easier to see how laser illuminations vary throughout each year. (Note that January is not shown because the data is a 30-day moving average, so the plotting starts with Jan. 31. Also note that because of the 30-day averaging, the maximum number of laser illuminations in a day appears to be about 36, when as shown by the chart above, the maximum number on any one day was 65.)
Yet another way to look at trends within a year is to view the cumulative number of laser illuminations. Each year starts with 0 illuminations, then rises to the yearly maximum on Dec. 31. For example, you can see that in 2017 and 2016, there were more incidents early in the year and fewer later in the year, compared with 2015. In all years except 2015, the lasing rate was relatively steady — the number of incidents is more-or-less continuously rising throughout a year.
A study by AirSafe.com, looking at 17,663 incidents between 2010 and 2014 is here.
The FAA has a spreadsheet with details of each laser incident from 2010 through 2014 (and possibly later as the information is updated). Story and link to the spreadsheet here.
Statistics on 2013 FAA incidents are here.
Historical statistics on 2004-2013 FAA incidents are here.
United States - Eye effects and injuries
The following data is based on reports listed in the FAA’s annual Laser Report form, as tabulated by LaserPointerSafety.com.
In some incident reports, there were two or more eye effects or injuries reported. This is why, for example, in 2017 there were 24 incidents with actual eye effects or injuries (top table), and yet the total number of eye effects or injuries was 31 (bottom table).
See also information from an Australian study showing that out of 1,316 laser strikes from 2010-2014, 15 or 0.8% resulted in flight crew incapacitation. This is similar to the FAA 5-year total above of 0.6% of incidents with one or more eye effects.
For the 198 FAA-reported incidents, there were 225 different reported injuries or effects, since some persons reported multiple effects. For 20% of the 198 incidents, a crew member sought or considered seeking medical attention.
United States - Arrests and convictions
According to Ars Technica writer Cyrus Farivar, in the U.S. from 2005 to 2013 there were 134 arrests for aiming lasers at aircraft, out of 17,725 FAA-reported lasing incidents. He wrote “That means that even amongst reported incidents, there’s only a 0.75 percent chance of getting caught. Adding countless unreported incidents would only make that minuscule percentage go down further.”
Farivar noted that there were 80 convictions among the 134 arrests. One reason for the conviction rate of 60%: some who were arrested were minors who were never formally charged.
A selected list of persons convicted for laser pointer-related crimes, in the U.S. and worldwide, is here.
- According to Transport Canada, in 2015 there were almost 600 reported incidents. This is an increase over 502 incidents reported in 2014. Story here.
- A February 2016 story in the Ottawa Citizen says in 2015 there were well over 663 incidents. The reason for the discrepancy with the Transport Canada figures above is not known. Story here with more charts.
- In February 2018, Transport Canada provided to LaserPointerSafety.com a breakdown by province/territory of laser illumination incidents, from 2012-2017:
U.S., U.K. and Canada compared
This chart directly compares the U.S., U.K. and Canadian laser incident rates:
This chart compares the three countries as if they had the same population. The U.K. clearly had a higher per capita laser incident rate than the U.S. from 2009 to 2014. But since 2015, the U.S. laser incident rate has been higher, per capita, than either the U.K. or Canada:
In 2017, UK airports reported 989 laser incidents to the Civil Aviation Authority. This is a 21% decrease from the 1,258 incidents in 2016. In addition, there were also 243 laser incidents overseas (non-U.K.) in 2017. This is an 11% decrease from the 274 overseas incidents in 2016.
- These are the top 10 U.K. locations in 2017, according to CAA:
- 55% of pilots experienced a laser attack, September 2015 to September 2016, according to BALPA. Story here; number also mentioned here by CAA.
- A story on laser illuminations of police aircraft in 2015; one helicopter in South Yorkshire has been hit nearly 100 times.
- According to the Daily Mail, “Between 2009 and June 2015 more than 8,998 laser incidents across the country were reported to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.” For comparison, there were about 21,400 incidents in the US during that time period. Story here.
- In 2014 and 2015 there were 118 incidents where lasers were aimed at the drivers of trains. Story here.
- From a 2017 open consultation document published by the U.K. government: “Records from British Transport Police show that between 1 April 2011 and 31 October 2016, a total of 466 laser incidents [targeting trains] were recorded. This equates to approximately 85 incidents per year. We believe these incidents are under-reported since these offences are not currently recordable as a crime.” This statistic is also mentioned on page 2 of this House of Lords Library Briefing.
- There have been a total of 578 laser incidents on British railways from 2011 to late 2017, according to British Transport Police. Story here.
- Incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft in Ireland fell from 153 in 2014, to 134 in 2015, and could be less than 50 in 2016, according to the Irish Aviation Authority. Story here.
- There were 158 incidents in 2013. Story here.
35 aircraft illumination incidents in 2015. Sixteen incidents from January 1 through mid-October 2016. Story here.
- An April 2013 investigation by the Scottish Express found 338 incidents in Scotland from January 1 2011 through February 13 2013. Only 12, or 3.5 percent, had been solved. Story here.
- In a story about a May 14 2012 laser incident, the Scotsman reported that there were 107 laser incidents involving aircraft in Glasgow during 2011, up from five incidents during 2008. Story here.
According to the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi), there were 60 cases of laser interference with aircraft in 2013, and 58 cases Jan.-Nov. 2014. Story here.
As of 2014, around 100 incidents per year where lasers were pointed at aircraft in Norway. Story here.
In Germany during 2012, there were 261 incidents reported of lasers being aimed at aircraft. Twenty-seven of these were in the Berlin area. Story here.
In 2014, there were 294 laser incidents reported in Portugal; in 2015 there were 264 such incidents. In 2014, 107 of the incidents occurred at Porto Airport; in 2015 there were 105 incidents at the airport. Story here.
According to the Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Volo, there were 1,189 reported laser-aircraft incidents in 2014, occurring at 35 Italian airports. This is up 34% from the 2013 figure of 885 incidents. Story here.
There were 4,266 laser/aircraft incidents in Europe in 2010, according to air traffic agency Eurocontrol. In 2008, there were 1,048 European incidents. Story here.
There were 502 laser/aircraft incidents in Australia in 2015, up slightly from the 466 in 2014. Story here with more charts.
From 2010 through 2014, there were 113 flight crew incapacitations in Australia — an average of about 23 per year. Most were caused by gastrointestinal illness, but the second leading cause of pilot incapacitations was laser strikes. Of the 113 incapacitations, 15 (13.3%) were due to laser strikes, according to a 2016 study by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
- Approximately 169 incidents in 2017, according to the Civil Aviation Authority. 152 incidents in 2016, 104 incidents in 2015. Story here.
- 116 incidents in 2013. Story here and earlier story here.
- 20 reports of laser illuminations of aircraft in the 47 days between January 1 and February 16 2016. Story here.
- There have been 170 laser incidents in South Africa to date [Jan 1 - Aug 1 2012] in 2012, according to the director of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). That is roughly on pace for 290 incidents for the entire year, which represents a 66% increase over the 175 incidents in 2011. Story here.
- There have been 181 laser/aircraft incidents recorded in South Africa, from January 1 2010 to February 29 2012, according to the Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS). Story here.
In a 2017 news story, Taiwan officials said that in previous years there had been 4 to 5 reports per year of laser interference. In the first six months of 2017, there were 8 reports.