As the number of dangerous laser incidents around the country continues to rise, the FAA has rolled out a new website to make it easier for pilots and the public to report laser incidents. The website also includes a knowledge base of articles and information on the subject, highlighting the dangers of shining a laser at the cockpit of any aircraft.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said that the ‘safety of the traveling public is our absolute number-one priority. 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.’
The website, http://www.faa.gov/aircraft/safety/report/laserinfo/, contains a collection of a wide array of laser information, links to reporting laser incidents, laser statistics, FAA press releases and FAA and industry research on the dangers these laser events pose to pilots. The site even includes downloadable videos.
Even with the increased focus and news reporting on the dangers of these laser events, the number reported year to date (through October 20) stands at 2,795 with the highest number of events occurring in Phoenix, Philadelphia and Chicago, with 96, 95 and 83 incidents respectively. In 2010, the FAA received 2,836 reports for the year leaving 2011 on pace to easily surpass the prior year total. In 2003, when the FAA initially requested pilots report these incidents, there were only 300 reports in that first year.
‘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,’ Administrator Babbitt said today at a conference on the dangers of laser events sponsored by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). ‘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.’
In an effort to stem the nearly continual increase of these incidents, in June 2011, the FAA announced it would begin imposing civil penalties of up to $11,000 against offenders that ‘interfered with a flight crew’ by pointing a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft. According to the FAA, they are currently pursuing 18 civil penalty cases.
There is also current legislation pending on the federal level that would make it a federal crime and the FAA has stated that they will work with local and federal law enforcement agencies to assist with criminal prosecutions. Myrtle Beach, NC, recently enacted local laws against shining lasers at aircraft, and earlier this year, Illinois passed a law making it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail. In 2010, the Chicago area was second with 98 reported incidents and currently, Chicago airports are third, with 83 incidents reported year to date and on track to finish with a decrease year over year.
The new website offers the members of the public with an email and instructions for reporting incidents they may witness. The FAA requests that anyone witnessing someone shining a laser at an aircraft send email to [email protected] and include the following information:
- Name and contact information
- Date and time you witnessed the incident
- Location and description of the incident
After your email is received, FAA staff or the appropriate law enforcement organization will contact you to follow up.
Pilot or air crew members who experience a laser incident are recommended to contact the appropriate Air Traffic Control (ATC) facility as soon as possible following the incident. For guidance, see AC 70-2, Reporting of Laser Illumination of Aircraft (PDF).
After landing, they should complete the Laser Beam Exposure Questionnaire (PDF) and fax it to the Washington Operations Control Center at 202-267-5289.