Although shining a laser at aircraft is against federal and state laws and may result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation and up to $30,800 for multiple incidents, the frequency of laser events is increasing. This is according to a newly released FAA interactive webpage detailing data from more than 57,800 reported incidents between 2010 to 2020.
The FAA said that despite greatly reduced flying hours in 2020 due to the pandemic, pilots reported 6,852 laser strikes last year versus 6,136 in 2019. In addition, the number of incidents reported last year was the highest annual total in a decade since the peak of 7,383 reported in 2016.
The agency also revealed that there have been nearly 200 reports by flight crews of injuries resulting from laser strikes between 2010 and 2020. According to the data, about one of every four laser strikes occur below 3,000 feet agl.
California led the nation by far, with 11,198 incident reports over the last decade. Texas, which came in second, had just 5,802 reported events between 2010 and 2020. On a per capita basis, Hawaii averaged 64 events per 100,000 people over the 10-year period. Meanwhile, the FAA has issued $600,000 in civil penalties since 2016, which includes $120,000 imposed so far this year.