October 28, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
With incidents involving laser pointers being aimed at aircraft still increasing, the FAA has created a page on its website where pilots and the public can report occurrences and obtain information about the problem.
“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,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in an announcement Oct.27.
The new Web page “includes links for reporting laser incidents, laser statistics, FAA press releases, and FAA research on the dangers lasers can pose to pilots, as well as downloadable videos,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
“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,” he added at a conference on the dangers of laser events sponsored by the Air Line Pilots Association. “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.”
AOPA reported June 2 that LaHood and Babbitt had announced civil penalties of up to $11,000 for shining a laser pointer at an aircraft cockpit under a regulation against interfering with a flight crew. But laser incident reports have increased since the FAA initiated a formal reporting system in 2005, rising from nearly 300 in 2005 to 2,836 in 2010, they said.
In 2011, the FAA said, pilots reported 2,795 laser events through Oct. 20. The most events occurred this year in Phoenix (96), Philadelphia (95) and Chicago (83). The yearly increases in reports were attributed to a variety of factors including online availability of inexpensive laser devices, higher-powered lasers, more pilot reporting of incidents, and the introduction of more easily visible green and blue lasers.
The FAA said it is reviewing 18 cases for civil penalties.
The agency said it provided technical expertise to help Myrtle Beach, S.C., develop a laser-pointer law, as cities and states have adopted measures to address the problem.
The agency said it would assist all law enforcement agencies in prosecutions of cases involving laser pointer incidents.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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