FAA reporting 'alarmingly high' number of laser incidents involving planes, helicopters nationwide

Posted at 12:33 PM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 18:36:08-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - People, put the lasers down. That’s the message from the Federal Aviation Agency after an alarmingly high number of pilots have reported lasers being pointed at them.

News 3's I-Team has learned it’s a problem in Virginia.

The green, flashing lights can be blinding for someone behind the controls of a plane or helicopter, which could potentially cause the pilot to crash the plane or otherwise become disoriented or injured.

Experts say it usually happens when aircraft take off or land — meaning the distraction could cause serious damage to the pilot or aircraft.

Now, the FAA is issuing a warning for the public to not shine lasers at any aircraft.

According to the FAA, in 2021, the agency had its highest-ever number of complaints of laser strikes at aircraft. 9,700 reports were taken — a 41% increase over 2020.

The News 3 I-Team looked at the numbers from our region and found that Virginia saw a dramatic increase as well.

Since the FAA began tracking the numbers in 2010, average numbers were between 38 and 98 reports per year. However, the agency saw a huge jump in 2021, with 225 reports received.

In Hampton Roads, the FAA says they had eight reported laser strikes in 2021.

Steve Sterling is the deputy executive director of the Norfolk Airport Authority. He told us that pointing lasers at aircraft is a federal crime.

Sterling said sometimes it appears that the beam from the laser is only traveling a few hundred yards, but it actually can project several miles.

But why are airports seeing this increase? Some experts say the lasers are relatively cheap and easy to find online.

But if you’re caught, it’s expensive. The FAA said you can face an $11,000 fine per violation and fines over $30,000 for multiple incidents.

For information on how to report laser strikes, click here.