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Fact Sheet – Lasers

For Immediate Release

March 4, 2020
Contact: Tammy L. Jones
Phone: (202) 267-3883

The FAA is continuing its awareness campaign and working with law enforcement to reduce laser strikes throughout the country. The FAA wants to let people know that pointing lasers at aircraft can create a serious safety risk to pilots and damage their eyes. It is a federal offense to point a laser at an aircraft.

The substantial number of reported incidents clearly show that laser strikes on aircraft remain a serious threat to aviation safety.

Laser Incidents Per Year
YearNumber of Laser Incidents

The FAA works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue civil and criminal penalties against individuals who purposely aim a laser at an aircraft.

The agency takes enforcement action against those who violate Federal Aviation Regulations by shining lasers at aircraft, imposing civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Civil penalties of up to $30,800 have been imposed by the FAA against individuals for multiple laser incidents.

The substantial number of reports is due to a number of factors. This includes:

  • Greater awareness by pilots to report laser incidents, due in large part to the FAA’s extensive outreach program
  • The availability of inexpensive laser devices
  • The abundance of lasers for sale in stores and online
  • The number of lasers being given as gifts
  • Stronger power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes
  • Green lasers, which are more visible to the human eye than red lasers

The FAA’s guidance for agency investigators and attorneys stresses that laser violations should not be addressed through warning notices or counseling. The agency seeks moderately high civil penalties for inadvertent violations, but maximum penalties for deliberate violations. Violators who are pilots or mechanics face revocation of their FAA certificate, as well as civil penalties.

Shining a laser at aircraft is illegal in some cities and states. In many cases, people can face federal charges. Federal, state, and local prosecutors have sentenced laser violators to jail time, community service, probation and additional financial penalties for court costs and restitution.

The FAA strongly encourages people to report laser incidents, whether they are pilots, air traffic controllers, or members of the public.



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