Today, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that the number of laser strikes on airplanes in 2010 nearly doubled from the previous year to more than 2,800. This is the highest number of incidents since we first began keeping track in 2005.
An incident that takes a pilot's attention away from the business of getting passengers safely to their destination is an unacceptable risk to passenger safety. And that is exactly what happens when someone points a laser at an airplane.
Laser strikes can also harm pilots. Imagine that you've been piloting an aircraft for two or three hours in nighttime conditions, when suddenly a brilliant green beam hits you directly in the eye. The result? Persistent pain, eye spasms, and spots in your vision.
As Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt wrote in a blog post here last month, "Some of these exposures have required pilots to have to temporarily give up control of an aircraft to their co-pilot or abort a landing. We have also had reports of people shining lasers into air traffic control towers."
Pointing a laser at an airplane is not a harmless prank; it is a technological assault on the pilot and a serious safety risk to passengers.
That's why, says Administrator Babbitt, “The FAA is actively warning people not to point high-powered lasers at aircraft. We continue to ask pilots to immediately report laser events to air traffic controllers so we can contact local law enforcement officials.”
We are committed to raising awareness of this important safety issue. And you can help. If you see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, please contact your local law enforcement officials.