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US: 2,836 laser events reported in 2010; FAA expresses concern
FAA spokesperson Laura Brown told LaserPointerSafety.com that in roughly 90% of the reports, the cockpit and/or pilot was illuminated by the laser. (In the other 10%, a beam was seen outside the aircraft but light did not enter the cockpit.) As far as injury reports, Brown said that these were “fairly rare”.
The FAA’s press release listed the top 20 affected airports, with Los Angeles International Airport topping the chart with 102 “laser events” in 2010. LaserPointerSafety.com has further analyzed the airport data to show that for these top 20 airports, an event occurred once every 7,000 takeoffs and and landings; the analysis is here.
According to the press release, “[t]he increase in reports is likely due to a number of factors, including the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet; higher power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes; increased pilot reporting of laser strikes; and the introduction of green lasers, which are more easily seen than red lasers.”
The FAA released the photo above, illustrating what a direct laser illumination of a cockpit can look like.
To read the full FAA press release, and see the list of 20 most affected airports, click the “Read More...” text below. In addition, updated statistics for the current year are here.
The following is the text of the FAA’s January 19 2011 press release:
Press Release – FAA Announces Record Number of Laser Events in 2010
For Immediate Release
January 19, 2011
Contact: Tammy Jones
Phone: (202) 267-3883
Pointing Lasers at Aircraft Poses a Serious Safety Issue
WASHINGTON – The FAA announced today that in 2010, nationwide reports of lasers pointed at aircraft almost doubled from the previous year to more than 2,800. This is the highest number of laser events recorded since the FAA began keeping track in 2005.
Los Angeles International Airport recorded the highest number of laser events in the country for an individual airport in 2010, with 102 reports, and the greater Los Angeles area tallied nearly twice that number, with 201 reports. Chicago O’Hare International Airport was a close second, with 98 reports, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport tied for the third highest number of laser events for the year with 80 each.
“This is a serious safety issue,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Lasers can distract and harm pilots who are working to get passengers safely to their destinations.”
Nationwide, laser event reports have steadily increased since the FAA created a formal reporting system in 2005 to collect information from pilots. Reports rose from nearly 300 in 2005 to 1,527 in 2009 and 2,836 in 2010.
“The FAA is actively warning people not to point high-powered lasers at aircraft because they can damage a pilot’s eyes or cause temporary blindness,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We continue to ask pilots to immediately report laser events to air traffic controllers so we can contact local law enforcement officials.”
Some cities and states have laws making it illegal to shine lasers at aircraft and, in many cases, people can face federal charges.
The increase in reports is likely due to a number of factors, including the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet; higher power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes; increased pilot reporting of laser strikes; and the introduction of green lasers, which are more easily seen than red lasers.
Top 20 Laser Event Reports by Airport in 2010
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), 102
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), 98
Phoenix/Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), 80
San Jose International Airport (SJC), 80
McCarran International Airport (LAS), 72
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), 66
Oakland International Airport (OAK), 55
Honolulu International Airport (HNL), 47
San Francisco International Airport (SFO), 39
Denver International Airport (DEN), 38
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), 38
Tucson International Airport (TUS), 37
Miami International Airport (MIA), 36
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), 36
Portland International Airport (PDX), 32
LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT), 32
Bob Hope Airport (BUR), 31
Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI), 31
John Wayne Airport (SNA), 31
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), 26
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood comments on his blog about the press release.
The FAA also recently released “Laser Hazards in Navigable Airspace”, a 4-page PDF brochure intended for media, pilots and others. It describes the hazards of laser light, FAA flight zones, FAA regulations and publications, and what pilots can do if they experience an incident.E