FAA warns laser pointers pose a safety risk to airline pilots, passengers

January 21, 2011

Washington – Airports reported a record-high number of incidents of lasers being pointed at airplanes and disrupting pilots last year, according to statistics released Jan. 19 by the Department of Transportation.

A report from the Federal Aviation Administration shows in 2010, incidents involving laser pointers and aircraft more than doubled to 2,800 – the highest number since the agency started tracking incidents in 2005. In 2009, 1,527 incidents were recorded. FAA reported multiple incidents at 20 airports. The airports with the highest number of incidents include:

  • Los Angeles International Airport: 102
  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport: 98
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: 80
  • San Jose International Airport: 80
  • McCarran International Airport: 72

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in his blog said the act of pointing a laser at an airplane is an unacceptable risk to passenger safety because the brilliant light from the laser beam can distract or harm the pilot. Laser beams that flash directly in a person's eye can cause persistent pain, eyes spasms and spots in vision, LaHood said.