In the past 11 months, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and I have worked to raise public awareness about the dangers of shining a laser at an airplane or helicopter. Unfortunately, however, these dangerous incidents are still on the rise. Today, as part of our ongoing effort to stop these threats to pilot, crew, and passenger safety, the Federal Aviation Administration has launched a new website, www.faa.gov/go/laserinfo.
The new site includes statistics, research on the dangers lasers pose, and links for reporting laser incidents. It also features downloadable videos.
Look, quite simply, pointing a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft threatens lives. As FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said, “As a former commercial airline pilot, I can tell you that shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft is a serious safety risk. Lasers can distract or temporarily blind pilots who are trying to fly safely to their destinations and could compromise the safety of hundreds of passengers.”
The FAA takes this seriously; the aviation community takes this seriously; and law enforcement agencies take this seriously.
Part of the early increase--from 300 in 2005 to 1,527 in 2009--can be attributed to pilots, air traffic controllers, and the public becoming more aware of the dangers and calling local authorities. But the dramatic rise cannot be explained away that easily. Portable laser pointing devices are less expensive, more powerful, and more readily available than ever. And people seem unable to resist the very dangerous temptation to shine them at aircraft.
But the FAA has also been more active than ever in trying to protect the safety of pilots, crews, and passengers. In June, the FAA announced it would start imposing civil penalties of up to $11,000 against people pointing a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft, and the agency is currently working on 18 civil penalty cases. The FAA also worked with Myrtle Beach, SC, to develop a law making it illegal to point a laser at an aircraft. In September, Myrtle Beach passed its law, joining a number of other states and communities who have recognized the dangers lasers pose.
The website FAA Administrator Babbitt launched today at the Air Line Pilots Association "Laser Illumination Conference" is another step in this ongoing pursuit of safety. And I urge you to visit the new site and share it with your friends.
Safety is our absolute number one priority, and we will do everything we can to get the word out about how dangerous it is to point a laser at an aircraft. These incidents must stop.