Most pilots don’t need to be told that laser pointers are not toys, whatever the cat might think, but the risk of causing a blinding distraction aboard a distant aircraft is not obvious to everyone. Recent data reveal there remains work to be done raising public awareness.
This has been a frustrating and persistent problem for years, despite intense effort by the FAA and law enforcement to educate those ignorant of this particular risk, as well as penalties including steep fines and potential incarceration for those who deliberately misuse lasers. It is a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, punishable by up to five years in prison and fines up to $25,000. The FAA updated its guidance to pilots in 2020 with an advisory circular detailing how and what to report about a laser incident to facilitate a law enforcement investigation.
A range of eye protection products have also been developed over the years, virtually all involving tradeoffs between visual perception and protection.