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Aircraft Laser Strikes Continue to Rise in 2021

Shining a laser at an aircraft is not only a federal offense but can incapacitate pilots, putting everyone on the aircraft in serious danger. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has received 7,186 laser strike reports in 2021 as of October 14, which increased by 4.8 percent from 2020 numbers. This year marks the highest number of reports since 2016.Laser strikes are likely increasing for a number of reasons, such as the availability of inexpensive lasers, lasers being given as gifts, stronger power levels of lasers, and the use of green lasers, which are more visible to the human eye than red lasers.The software platform Tableau was developed by the FAA as a visualization tool to show laser strike data, highlighting trends by geographic area, per capita data, time of day and year. Tableau data showed that over the last 10 years, there has been a 148% increase in reported laser events in the United States and US territories."Pointing a laser at an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot and, not only affects the crew, but also endangers passengers," said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.The FAA has issued $120,000 in fines for laser strikes in 2021. An offender could be left with a fine of up to $11,000 per violation, but multiple laser incidents will lead to a fine of $30,800. In addition to the federal law, some cities and states also have laws against shining a laser at aircraft. In some cases, federal, state, and local prosecutors have even sentenced laser violators to jail time, community service, probation and additional financial penalties for court costs and restitution.Whether a pilot, air traffic controller or member of the public, the FAA encourages that laser incidents be reported as soon as possible.
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