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US: 6,852 laser illuminations reported to FAA in 2020

In 2020, pilots in the U.S. reported seeing lasers 6,852 times, according to FAA data. This is a 10.3 percent increase over the 6,213 reports received in 2019.

Laser illuminations FAA to 2020 800w

This means pilots saw lasers on average 18.7 times each day in 2020. However, the lasing rate was not evenly distributed. It reached a monthly low of about 9 illuminations per day in April 2020 — just as nationwide pandemic restrictions started. The highest rate was in November 2020, with almost 30 illuminations per day.

Laser events 2020 800w - daily total blue chart copy

The peak number of illuminations, 55 on Nov. 5, occurred two days after the contentious 2020 election, when a presidential winner had not yet been declared. Of the 10 highest days (most incidents) in 2020, all but one occurred in the Nov. 5-21 period. It is not known if this is a coincidence or if there is some correlation with the election.

The charts above, and other detailed statistics, are on the Laser/aircraft illuminations statistics page. This includes data such as the following:

  • The total number of U.S. laser/aircraft incidents since reporting to the FAA was mandated in 2004, is 61,712 as of Dec. 31, 2020.

  • The total number of worldwide laser/aircraft incidents since 2004 is over 90,000. Only eight countries are included in this cumulative total, and many of these do not have data for some years in the 2004-2020 time period.

  • Green laser light remains the most-reported. In 2020, 85.4% of incidents involved green light; blue was second with 9.2%. The number of blue lasers reported has steadily increased over the past few years. For example, in 2016 only 2.9% of incidents involved blue laser light.

  • In 2020, only 0.3% of FAA-reported laser/aircraft incidents indicated that crew members suffered eye effects or temporary injuries. This rate has decreased since 2011, when 1.4% of incidents incurred eye effects or temporary injuries. The most-reported effects were flashblindness and/or afterimage; pain, burning or irritation; and blurriness.