In the past few days, several jets coming in for a landing at LaGuardia have had handheld laser pointers aimed at them, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to call for witnesses to come forward. Lasers can temporarily blind pilots (and even cause painful injuries), but such incidents can be notoriously difficult to trace back to the source.
Laser Attacks Rise 1,000% in Recent Years
If laser incidents once seemed like a passing fad, that’s no longer the case. Last year there were more than 2,800+ laser strikes against planes, and the current pace is expected to beat that number with 2,700+ attacks recorded as of Oct. 13 of this year. Compare that with a mere 283 attacks for all of 2005.
Where Lasers are Being Used Against Planes
According to the news reports, airliners in cities across the U.S. have reported incidents, but three locations stand out:
- Phoenix: 96 incidents
- Philadelphia: 95 incidents
- Chicago: 83 incidents
What You Can Do
In response to these growing numbers, the FAA announced this summer that it would begin impose civil penalties of an $11,000 fine per incident, and the agency has also created a new Laser Incident page, to make it easier for pilots, air traffic controllers and members of the public to report these incidents to the proper authorities.