A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: FAA to take harsher actions against persons aiming at aircraft

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration “will pursue the toughest penalties” against persons who deliberately aim lasers at aircraft, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on May 16 2012. Since June 2011, FAA has taken action against 28 persons, with a fine of $11,000 per laser strike. The highest penalty sought so far is $30,800.

FAA has directed its staff not to seek warning notices or counseling, but to use “moderately high civil penalties” for inadvertent laser illuminations, and maximum penalties for deliberate violations.

In a video provided by FAA, LaHood said “I wonder how stupid people really can be” for not knowing that laser light could “cause great harm if the pilot is not able to continue to fly the plane safely…. people’s lives could be in jeopardy.” LaHood also said people should “understand that there are serious consequences to shining a laser at a pilot.”

The complete press release is below (click the “Read More...” link). This also has links to video and audio from LaHood and the acting FAA Administrator.

Press Release – FAA Steps Up Enforcement of Laser Penalties

For Immediate Release, May 16, 2012
Contact: Laura Brown, (202) 267-3883

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has directed its investigators and staff to pursue stiffer penalties for individuals who purposefully point laser devices at aircraft.

“Shining a laser at an airplane is not a laughing matter. It’s dangerous for both pilots and passengers, and we will not tolerate it,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will pursue the toughest penalties against anyone caught putting the safety of the flying public at risk.”

The number of reported laser incidents nationwide rose from 2,836 in 2010, to 3,592 in 2011. Laser incident reports have increased steadily since the FAA created a formal reporting system in 2005 to collect information from pilots.

The FAA supports the Department of Justice in its efforts to seek stern punishment for anyone who intentionally points a laser device into the cockpit of an aircraft.

“We will continue to fine people who do this, and we applaud our colleagues at the Justice Department who have aggressively prosecuted laser incidents under a new law that makes this a specific federal crime,” said FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta.

The FAA has initiated enforcement action against 28 people charged with aiming a laser device at an aircraft since June 2011, and this week the agency directed FAA investigators and attorneys to pursue the stiffest possible sanctions for deliberate violations. The FAA has opened investigations in dozens of additional cases.

The FAA announced last June it would begin to impose civil penalties against individuals who point a laser device at an aircraft. The maximum penalty for one laser strike is $11,000, and the FAA has proposed civil penalties against individuals for multiple laser incidents, with $30,800 the highest penalty proposed to date. In many of these cases, pilots have reported temporary blindness or had to take evasive measures to avoid the intense laser light.

The guidance for FAA investigators and attorneys indicates laser violations should not be addressed through warning notices or counseling. It also directs moderately high civil penalties for inadvertent violations, but maximum penalties for deliberate violations. Violators who are pilots or mechanics face revocation of their FAA certificates, as well as civil penalties.

Local, state and federal prosecutors also have sentenced laser violators to jail time, community service, probation and additional financial penalties for court costs and restitution.

Broadcast quality audio and video from Secretary Ray LaHood are available for download at:
https://dotmediacenter.onehub.com/d/p52a/ (audio) and https://dotmediacenter.onehub.com/d/3git/ (video).

Broadcast quality audio from Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta is available for download at: